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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Monday, December 29, 2003
Posted 2:38 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Temples of Justice
Some cursory remarks on courthouse architecture can be found at JC.C. The architectural vocabulary of ancient Greece is an endagered species in modern courthouse design, and the drab replacement is typically uninspiring.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Posted 1:42 PM by Lawren
Uphill Battle?

It doesn't appear that Saddam will have any problems finding someone to represent him. More than 600 lawyers have signed up to defend captive Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the head of Jordan's Bar Association told the Jordan Times newspaper on Sunday.

Saturday, December 20, 2003
Posted 8:59 PM by Lawren
I received this forward and thought others might enjoy...

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a
certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein,including, but not limited to a mouse. A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or
belief that St. Nick a/k/a St. Nicholas a/k/a Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein visions of confectionary treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in
various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House,i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance. At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the
approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer,Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may
have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown
origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations. Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small
gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts". Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.
Unwinding after Exams

Typically after exams, I enjoy watching Italian horror films. It is a good way to relax and not think about the law. However, after Civ Pro I watched Pieces (dir. Juan Piquer Simon, OK, it's Spanish, but it has the type of bad dialogue and incongrous plot that I like) and I found myself listing possible instances of negligence (on the part of the characters, not the director) and who could sue whom in anticipation of my torts final. In the film, a chainsaw murderer is loose on the campus of a college that looks a lot like Harvard, he steals body parts to assemble a jigsaw puzzle, but the dean wants to keep a lid on it "Do you know what would happen if this ever got out?" (I don't know who was responsible for continuity or plausibility.) The scene that starts the mayhem is a coed on a skateboard who collides with some glaziers who are delivering a big mirror, but who are parked just around the corner so no one can see them unload until the last possible moment. The glaziers are liable for where they parked, the employers of the glaziers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees committed within the scope of their employment. The coed is contributorily negligent for not jumping off the skateboard, and she might be negligent per se by skating on campus. She might have been wearing a walkman (it was 1983, afterall), and the coincidence of two forms of new technology might weigh against her.

This type of analysis doesn't serve well for other branches of the law. Take for example contracts: it is rare that anyone makes a pact with the devil in any of these films (those tend to be more German), but in such cases, I think there might be an open and shut case of unconscionability, both procedural and substantive, even though courts do not normally inquire into the adequacy of consideration (seven years of the good life in exchange for an eternity in hell). But Roger Coreman's Masque of the Red Death bears closer scrutiny. There Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) made a pact with the devil, and I think he felt he was on fairly equal terms going into it. I'll have to see the film again.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Posted 8:24 AM by Kelly
Almost There

In consideration for Josh's generous offer to other IU-Indy law students to contribute to this blog, and in celebration for my acceptance of that offer (because I enjoy blogging!), I tender these good vibes of contract law!!!

Good luck to all 1Ls as they take their last final this morning! Relish the feeling of having survived that first semester.......Happy Break!
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Posted 1:08 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Sapere aude poll
Would you rather be able to see your final exam grades toward the beginning or end of winter break? Leave your vote and why.
Posted 1:06 PM by Joshua Claybourn
The Unlearned Hand wonders if we have an obligation to help burglars and also has an analysis of the Padilla ruling.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Posted 11:36 PM by Joshua Claybourn
An alert reader points out the Google advertisement above is for pre-lit Christmas trees. Perhaps the robots that automatically set the ads have a good sense of humor. =)
Posted 7:23 PM by Kelly
None of the Above

I hate multiple choice exams.

Actually, I'll qualify that a bit. I loved all the standardized testing in grade school (it was Iowa Basic Skills Tests, I believe) and I enjoyed the several times I took either the SAT or the PSAT.

But standardized testing is different than the substantive testing in our law school classes.

Last year, I had only one test that involved multiple choice questions. It was the Crim Law mid-term, and it was my lowest grade thus far (current round of finals excluded!)
Luckily, it was worth only a small portion of our final grade and I was able to pull out of it with the essay final, despite totally not following directions and realizing my error near the end of the 8 hour exam!

Today I took a final that included one long essay question, 3 short answers, and several multiple choice. Despite a packet with verbose advice on test-taking from our professor, including a section on multiple choice questions, I was at nearly a complete loss in this section of the exam.
Why are these questions so difficult for me?

Bad news for me. Good news for my fellow classmates!

3 finals down, 1 to go....
Monday, December 15, 2003
Posted 11:13 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Professor Florence Roisman, who was one of the principal objector's to the Christmas tree in the law school's atrium, has penned the following essay to defend and explain her position. It was intially submitted to the Indianapolis Star, but the newspaper turned it down even after criticizing her position in an editorial. Professor Roisman is a nationally known expert in property law. Sapere aude appreciates her important perspective in the discussion.

The center of the discussion at the IU School of Law -- Indianapolis is not a tree but the question: How do people of different faiths and different philosophies best work, live, and learn together? This is an important question, worthy of considerable time, thoughtful attention, and substantive, respectful conversation.

The law school consists of students, staff, and faculty -- and welcomes visitors -- of many different faiths and philosophies, including (but not limited to) Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, agnosticism, and atheism. Indeed, the law school celebrates and seeks to expand the participation of people from different countries and cultures. Our most recent Alumni Magazine (for Autumn 2003) begins with the words: "Cultural Understanding," as the Dean's Message describes "the dynamic international, cultural and ethnic diversity in our school," focusing particular attention on our new Master of Laws Program in American Law for Foreign Lawyers and our new Center for International and Comparative Law.

Early in December, a Christmas tree was placed in the law school's atrium -- the large, multi-story, central, and most prominent part of the building. I objected to the official display of the Christmas tree because it is a symbol of one religion, Christianity. I believe that such a display is of doubtful constitutionality in a state-supported law school, but my principal objection is one of policy, not law. My principal objection is that the official display of a symbol of one religion conveys to those of us who subscribe to other religions or philosophies that we are less welcome, less valued, not fully part of the community; that we are allowed to be present by sufferance only. I certainly do not believe that the Christmas tree was erected with the intention of sending that message, and I understand that some non-Christians did not take that message from the display of the tree. But the Christmas tree conveyed that message to me and to others -- students, staff, and faculty; and it certainly is not unreasonable for those of us who are not Christians to take that message from the Christmas tree.

I am particularly concerned about such a message of exclusion because this is a time of heightened religious and cultural intolerance. To cite only a few, recent, domestic, instances: Some of our Muslim students have told us that they have experienced hostility, and we know that Muslims (and people perceived to be Muslims) are subjected to and anticipate many forms of intolerance. The Holocaust museum in Terre Haute recently was destroyed by arson. The Ku Klux Klan recently demonstrated in Indianapolis to protest the presence of Hispanics here. A uniformed United States Army General has publicly, repeatedly, stated that this is a "Christian nation" and that his Christian "G-d was a real G-d, and [the Muslim G-d] was an idol."

A Christian symbol, prominently, exclusively, and officially displayed in the center of the law school is reasonably read as a statement that the law school gives special respect to Christianity. During the holy month of Ramadan, the law school presented no atrium display to honor Islam. The law school has not displayed in the atrium any menorah or other symbol of Chanukah, and the Jewish High Holy Days come and go with no recognition from the law school. (Indeed, classes are scheduled on those days.) The law school has not displayed in the atrium any symbol of Buddism, Confucianism, Hinduism, or any other religion, let alone agnosticism or atheism. The one and only religious display presented by the law school has been this Christmas tree.

Some say that the tree is not a symbol of Christmas, or that Christmas is a secular, not a religious holiday, and some have pointed out that some non-Christians have Christmas trees. I suggest that the very name -- "Christmas tree" -- indicates that the tree is a symbol of the holiday from which it takes its name. I suggest that most people, certainly including most Christians, consider that Christmas is a religious holiday. I suggest also that the controversy over this event has occurred only because the tree is taken to be a symbol of Christianity.

Some have said that Christmas trees appear in many places. Indeed they do, since the majority of people who live in the United States are Christians, and some people who are not Christians have Christmas trees nonetheless. But the question for us is what should be displayed officially in a public building that purports to welcome people of all faiths and philosophies.

Some have said that the Supreme Court has upheld the secular status of Christmas trees. This is not accurate. In the 1989 case of County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, the Supreme Court reversed an order forbidding the display of an 18-foot Chanukah menorah which appeared next to a 45-foot Christmas tree at the foot of which was a sign entitled "Salute to Liberty." The justices were sharply divided; there is no opinion of the Court with regard to the menorah or the Christmas tree (which itself was not in issue in the case). There is dictum in several opinions disagreeing about whether, to what extent, and in what (if any) circumstances a Christmas tree may be a religious symbol, but there is no resolution of the issue.

In sum, my objection to the Christmas tree is that it indicates a preference for the Christian religion over all other faiths and philosophies. As to the display that replaced the original tree, I think the question is whether the two trees and sleigh connote the religious holiday of Christmas. I believe that they do, though I know that others disagree. With respect to both the original display and the replacement, people disagree about (1) whether the display denotes Christmas; (2) whether Christmas is a religious holiday; and (3) whether a display that denotes a religious holiday of one religion should be placed in the law school's atrium.

I hope that the law school and larger communities will continue to engage in respectful discussion of the varying views about these issues. Freedom of discussion is one of the greatest glories of the United States, and it can be devoted to no more important task than reconciliation of different opinions about how to achieve both inclusiveness and freedom of belief.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Posted 6:17 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Professor Jeff Cooper has penned the following essay offering the "Other Side of the Tree" regarding the controversy that has gripped the school in recent weeks. Professor Cooper is the operator of Cooped Up, a weblog in hibernation, and teaches civil procedure, evidence, and product liability. He offered advice and constructive criticism during the birth of this blog, and is considered by many to be a star of the law school. We thank him for his input on this discussion.

The Other Side of the Tree

Ten days after a Christmas tree was removed from the law school's atrium, and more than a week after a larger and more elaborate display--one including an evergreen decorated with lights--was erected in its place, most students have moved on to more pressing concerns, namely their final exams. The story continues to occupy the media, however. Stories have aired on the local nightly news each of the last two nights, and yesterday evening a local radio host took it upon himself to lead a protest: for a half-hour at rush hour, a small parade of vehicles circled the law school, honking the rhythm of "Jingle Bells," bearing signs that read "Honk if you love Christmas trees" and "Happy birthday, Jesus."

I've found the entire event disheartening. I was, I confess, mildly irritated when I first saw the tree on the morning of November 26 (part of that irritation was prompted by the fact that those who put up the tree hadn't even waited until after Thanksgiving to do so). I was apprehensive when the tree was removed, because I knew that a backlash would surely follow. And I was dismayed by the scope of the reaction, which has included hate mail and hateful phone calls (mostly if not entirely from people outside the law school community) directed at the Dean and at Prof. Roisman, the most prominent person to protest the tree's placement.

Perhaps the most common response to the controversy, though, has not been anger but bewilderment: how could anyone genuinely find a Christmas tree in the law school objectionable? At the risk of extending the controversy, therefore, let me attempt a response to some of the more common statements I've heard and read:

1. There was nothing illegal about putting up the tree. Christmas is a largely secular holiday, and the Christmas tree is a secular symbol of that secular holiday.

There's no question that, at this time and place, Christmas has some secular aspects to it. The onslaught of mass commercialism to which we are subjected every December finds no basis in the text of the New Testament. The Christmas tree itself is not Christian in origin; rather, it is a pagan symbol that Christians adopted as the religion spread. What's more, many of those who exchange Christmas gifts, and who have Christmas trees in their homes, are not active churchgoers. In Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989), Justice Blackmun (a Christian) wrote: "The Christmas tree ... is not itself a religious symbol. Although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, today they typify the secular celebration of Christmas." That portion of the opinion (which considered whether a menorah, placed in conjunction with a Christmas tree, violated the Establishment Clause) did not command majority support; even if it had, the quoted passage would have been dictum, not essential to the issue before the Court, as there was no challenge to the presence of the Christmas tree itself. The Seventh Circuit has held, however, that a government entity may place a Christmas tree on government property (and exclude other displays) without violating the Establishment Clause, and my reading of the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence suggests that, if squarely presented with the issue, the Supreme Court would probably reach the same conclusion.

But the fact that the tree seemingly could legally have been placed in the law school atrium does not mean that it should have been placed there. Christmas may have secular aspects, but as a secular holiday, it's a peculiar one: almost all of those who celebrate Christmas are either Christian or have Christianity in their family backgrounds. Most Jews do not celebrate Christmas, even in its nominally secular aspects--some do, but the vast majority do not. I daresay most Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, nor do most members of other faiths. For members of minority faiths, a decorated evergreen tree at this time of year is unmistakably a Christmas tree. It is not a holiday tree; it is not a winter solstice tree. Whatever the practice's origins might have been, the tree is now inextricably linked with Christmas. And Christmas is a Christian holiday.

Many Christians, and many with Christianity in their backgrounds, have trouble understanding this perspective, I think. Certainly, the responses to the tree's removal from the law school atrium suggest this. It is natural for members of the majority culture to assume that their perspective is just right, and that anyone who persists in a different perspective does so only out of stubborn contrariness. As a white male, I'm familiar with the feeling. But the fact that members of the majority have grown up with Christmas trees every December does not make the Christmas tree a natural or neutral part of the early winter season, and the fact that members of the majority have trouble understanding how a Christmas tree could be perceived as divisive or exclusionary does not mean that those who do find a Christmas tree in the law school atrium exclusionary are wrong.

2. This whole thing is the result of one professor's actions.

Prof. Roisman has acknowledged that she urged the Dean to have the tree removed. But the fact that hers is the name most closely associated with the tree's removal does not mean that no one else objected. And, given the anger that's resulted from the tree's removal, it is certainly understandable that students who went to the Dean might be reluctant to come forward and be identified publicly with taking down the original tree.

3. Students should have been consulted before the tree was removed

I agree. Students form the majority of the law school community, and the large majority of them celebrate Christmas. Given that the placement of the original tree was almost certainly legal, the question then became what ought to be done, not what must be done, and in making that judgment, in this instance student opinions should have been considered. Since the tree was already up, more students were likely to be upset by removal of the tree than by its continued presence, my own view is that it would have been best to leave the tree in place for this year, or (if it was to be replaced) to leave it in place until the new winter display was ready to be installed.

But it's worth considering as well how the tree came to be placed in the atrium in the first place. (The following is hearsay, albeit multiple-sourced hearsay). My understanding is that last year, after members of the administrative staff placed a Christmas tree in the atrium, the Dean asked them not to do so again this year without first consulting him. No such consultation took place. Instead, on the morning before Thanksgiving, with the Dean out of town, members of the administrative staff once again erected their tree. No faculty were consulted, to my knowledge. Certainly, no non-Christian faculty were consulted.

There was, in other words, no collective decision to erect the tree; instead, members of the administrative staff took it upon themselves to decorate a space that belongs to the entire law school community for their own purposes. I don't attribute to them any ill will. But it would have been better if they had considered other voices before purporting to act on behalf of the whole law school community.

4. Instead of taking down the Christmas tree, why not just add a menorah, or whatever else anyone wants? The more, the merrier.

This is a tricky one, because the debate over the tree was largely about inclusion vs. exclusion. Wouldn't adding symbols from other faiths be more inclusive than removing the display altogether?

Let's start with the menorah. It's become rather a tradition, in some parts of the country, to toss a menorah into a Christmas display as a token of inclusiveness. But, like many Jews, I'm ambivalent about the menorah's widespread inclusion in holiday displays. Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar; adding a menorah to the display fin the law school would simply reinforce the notion, already widespread in the non-Jewish community, that Hanukkah is "the Jewish Christmas." That's a label that distorts both Hanukkah and Judaism generally.

Moreover, the addition of a menorah would still exclude Muslim students, Hindu students, Buddhist students, and members of other minority faiths, as well as those who follow no religious tradition. Could they be included in the display as well? Some faiths, I strongly suspect, do not have seasonally appropriate symbols that could be included in the display (when I made this point in a discussion with some of my students, one--a member of a non-Christian faith--nodded vigorously). To tell them that if they want to be included, it must occur according to the dictates of the Christian calendar, does not send an inclusive message; rather, it reinforces the minority faiths' subordinate position. Should members of minority faiths then be allowed to decorate the atrium according to their own holiday calendars? And what of atheists and agnostics--how and when are they to be included? One of last night's protesters (not a member of the law school community) suggested that people should be able to put up whatever they want. But the law school's atrium is not a public forum; it belongs to all of us, but we are not each free to make whatever use of it we see fit. And I don't think that the law school's sense of community would necessarily be improved if that were to change.

5. Prof. Roisman is the Grinch, and she's trying to steal Christmas

I've seen the Grinch metaphor repeatedly invoked in the discussions about the tree. And as a confirmed Seussophile, I must say that I don't find the metaphor particularly apt. The Grinch, Dr. Seuss tells us, "hated Christmas"--for no apparent reason, although the most likely cause was that his heart was "two sizes too small." Those non-Christians who would prefer not to be confronted with a Christmas tree in the law school atrium, however, don't necessarily hate Christmas. Indeed, I can state this affirmatively: the ones I know don't hate Christmas. It simply isn't their holiday; it doesn't speak to them. And at a time of year when Christmas decorations are ubiquitous, in public as well as private settings, they (and I) would prefer that the law school be respectful of all its members, not simply the majority. That's hardly a grinchian sentiment.

The metaphor fails in other ways as well. Dr. Seuss begins his tale by telling us: "Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot." But, as I've already noted, the law school community is not a homogeneous Who-ville; we are not uniform in our regard for, or observation of, Christmas.

But most importantly, I think, the use of the Grinch metaphor misses the entire point of Dr. Seuss's story. In the end, after the Grinch has removed every last decoration, has stuffed every last present and every last tree up the chimbley, has taken all the Who-pudding (and even the last can of Who-hash), he returns to the top of Mt. Crumpit, eager to hear the Whos wail and moan at their loss. And of course he is disappointed--because to the Whos Christmas doesn't reside in the lights, in the decorated trees, in the presents. It resides in the heart, in the fellowship of those who believe and celebrate. The Grinch isn't won over by protests; he is not won over by confrontation. He is won over by love.

Alas, the tree's removal has prompted many harsh words, more than a little confrontation, and little of what I thought was supposed to be the spirit of the season. And the result is that members of minority faiths (and those who adhere to no faith) are left feeling even more isolated, even more devalued, than they did when the tree was first erected.

I am grateful to the folks at Sapere Aude for allowing me to post here. I admire the work that they have done, both here and in the classroom; while we sometimes disagree, we have always been able to do so with good humor and mutual respect.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Posted 12:49 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Tree Updates
What would a day be here at Sapere aude without news on the "Christmas Tree Controversy"? Some news of interest:
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Posted 11:41 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Once finals are over, will someone please remind me to do something about Indiana University's asinine policy of charging semester tuition nearly a month before the loan payments are sent out? Who's the Einstein that keeps that policy in place?
Posted 9:35 AM by Lawren
Accountability and the Law

Jeff at the Notorious B.L.O.G. has a very interesting post discussing the image of lawyers, accountability, and reforming the civil litigation system.

It's worth the read.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Posted 1:52 PM by Lawren
Is the new anti-spam law actually a sham law?

Darn! I was so excited for the anti-spam legislation to take effect. Unfortunately, Anita Ramasastry's column highlights why the new law won't work.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Posted 10:31 PM by Lawren
Exemplary Behavior

Here's more proof (not that we needed it) that most lawyers need therapy (and often times, anger management).
Posted 3:23 PM by Kelly
National Coverage

Tree controversy gets mention on FOXNews online.
Original post here.

And Lawren is right, the name of our school isn't that difficult and isn't Purdue-related:
Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis. (Located on the IUPUI campus)
Posted 2:50 PM by Kelly
More Study Diversion

What color are you? (From JCA)
My description was close to accurate and I like the color!

you are darkslateblue

Your dominant hue is blue, making you a good friend who people love and trust. You're good in social situations and want to fit in. Just be careful not to compromise who you are to make them happy.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the html color quiz

Posted 1:14 PM by Lawren
Constitutional Change?

Citizen Smash has a great post asking, "If you could add one amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what would it be?"

Go add your amendment. The ones already suggested are very interesting.
Posted 1:02 PM by Lawren
She may be 90, but don't mess with her!

Today the Supreme Court refused to intervene in a lawsuit Rosa Parks has filed against musical group OutKast.

The case is LaFace Records v. Parks.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Posted 4:27 PM by Lawren
Random Thought While Studying For Finals:

A 98-page outline in 10-point font doesn't seem like an outline, now does it? I guess it does when you had 151 pages of notes.

The perils of 4-credit classes. Argh.
Posted 2:30 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Calling all copyright nerds! Eugene Volokh has a post that might interest you.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Posted 6:42 PM by Lawren

The WRTV 6 website has a poll asking if people find a Christmas tree in a public law school acceptable. Go cast your vote!! (Scroll down a bit and you'll find the poll toward the middle of the page).

As of this post, 96% of poll-takers find a Christmas tree acceptable.

Thanks for the heads up, Shel.
Posted 8:38 AM by Joshua Claybourn
The Indianapolis Star's story on it all can be found online here. I think it does a nice job of summarzing everything, and even includes a picture of the new display. There's also some news in the piece because it lets us know that the faculty member who opposed the original tree thinks the new display is just as offensive.

Update: Here's the Indiana Daily Student article, which quotes Sapere Aude contributors Lawren Mills and yours truly.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Posted 7:05 PM by Joshua Claybourn
TV News
Most of the Indianapolis television stations will be reporting "The Christmas Tree Controversy" on their news channels this evening. WTVR (Channel 6) came out to my abode and conducted an interview that featured the tree's removal and this site's role prominently. Tune in to WTVR at 11pm to catch it.

Update: Due to time constraints and lack of newsworthiness, these comments were not included: "The vast majority of faculty and students have been great. I think this has been a fabulous learning opportunity and it only reaffirms my belief that the IU Law School in Indianapolis is one of the best in the country."
Posted 4:59 PM by Lawren
Another Explanation?

Are we sure that the administration had the tree removed and these guys didn't just take it?
Posted 4:34 PM by Lawren
More Religious (or lack thereof) Discrimination

Atheists cannot hold public office in eight U.S. states.

FYI: Indiana is not one of those states.
Posted 4:30 PM by Kelly

I thought people were supposed to be quiet in libraries.
I spend large amounts of time reading, studying, (and OK, blog-reading and playing Text Twist) in our school library.

Overall, it's a peaceful place to study. But sometimes the silence is broken. The occasional conversation is annoying but is usually temporary. The answering of cell phones (on vibrate) falls into the same category. I may be guilty of both. The loud conversations of our environmental services staff as they travel from the elevators to offices is more distracting, but also temporary.

By far the most disturbing disregard for quiet study comes from some members of our faculty and staff. On the third floor, as they travel from the stairs or the elevators to the meeting rooms or offices or whatever they are in the corner of the library, they carry on conversations at top volume peppered with raucous laughter. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this occurrence? Perhaps I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time too often.

But I remember last exam season, as the study carrels filled, students abandoned manners and began to treat the library as a hang out spot. Let's hope this study season the library is still, at least sometimes, a haven for those who want to study (or surf the web!) in silence.
Happy studying to all!!!
Posted 12:40 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Christmas Comes Back
In accordance with the administration's initial plans, a newer and, suprisingly, bigger Christmas display is up in the atrium. Somehow the display has been deemed to be less offensive than the previous one. Yet now instead of one simple Christmas tree, the school has errected two in its place, along with lots of fake snow, a sled, and numerous other decorations. The school plans on adding more decorations from other cultures in an attempt to diversify the display. Supposedly, this makes it less controversial. That's a question open to extensive debate.

As other commenters have already noted, a wiser move for the school would have been to just put up the new display at the same time it replaced the old. It would've saved the administration, and faculty, a lot of headache.

I'll be looking forward to the official "press release" that explains and justifies the new display and how it's less offensive than the old. A number of theories have been floated. The decorations will encompass both Christmas and the New Year. Further, many cultures will be represented in the "holiday displays." Stay tuned.
Posted 12:18 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Have you purchased alcohol while underage in the last 21 years? Your parents could be plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against alcohol makers.
Posted 12:06 AM by Joshua Claybourn
The Grinch strikes again
Before I point this out, I should note that I do it in jest. As I note at my own blog, I think a reasonable person could certainly find reasons to object to the Christmas tree, although in the final analysis I think it should've stayed (for many reasons).

At any rate, it seems the Grinch that stole the law school's Christmas tree has been caught on video tape in Ohio stealing even more Christmas decorations. NASA will review the tape for enhancement.
Posted 12:00 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Yesterday was a record day here at Sapere Aude in terms of traffic. Over the past 24 hours, there have been 11,458 hits and 8,244 visits at this website.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Posted 3:49 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Dallas Morning News editorial writer and columnist Rod Dreher weighs in at his newspaper's blog. Scroll down to "'Diversity' equals joylessness."
Posted 3:11 PM by Kelly
More Trees

While the Santa and other small Christmas trees throughout the building may have been personal donations, the live trees growing in the courtyard were not. And they are decorated with (Christmas) lights. Are they the next to go? (tongue in cheek)

A professor I hold in high esteem echoed another of my thoughts on this issue. Those who are so committed to ensuring that there be no holiday injustice perpetrated in our school atrium would better spend that energy and passion for justice on matters of more importance.
Posted 1:48 PM by Joshua Claybourn
Sapere aude gets results. . . sort of
From Elizabeth L. DeCoux, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs:
The law school is committed to diversity, and because of that commitment, decorations celebrating the new year and diversity will appear in the atrium in the next few days. I have not seen them, but I believe they will be very festive and will promote good cheer.
What of our beloved tree? Stay tuned.
Posted 11:56 AM by Joshua Claybourn
The law school is currently holding a raffle for a giant chocolate Santa, and also has a number of poinsettas around the school. These have apparently met the new Christmas winter decoration criteria established by a small number of faculty, while the Tree failed it. The Grinch faculty member who was behind the ban has yet to come forward and explain himself/herself.

Update: There's a small Christmas tree behind the front secretary's desk!
Update 2: There's also a Christmas tree in the Pro Bono Office. It seems the offended professor only objected to the large, fake, secular tree located in the attrium.
Update 3: From Dean Tarr: "The giant chocolate Santa was my personal contribution to this community paid for by me personally. As a member of the Episcopal church I do celebrate Christmas." I suspect the other small trees in the school were also personal contributions.
Posted 10:52 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Christmas Tree v. The Grinch Continued
This is an email I received from the Assistant Dean for External Affairs.
The tree came down because there were members of the law school community who thought it was divisive and inappropriate. The school will be putting up another holiday decoration to replace it---I think today--if at all possible. There were individuals who believed that the tree sent the wrong message to the law school community and would make some people feel excluded.
No word yet on which faculty oppose Christmas trees.

Update: I've been getting a lot of emails asking who they can contact about questions regarding it all. Just to reiterate, here's the page with adminstrator contact information.
Anthony Tarr, Dean:
Jonna MacDougall, Assistant Dean for External Affairs:
Elizabeth A. Allington, Assistant Director for External Affairs:
Of course I urge only legitimate questions/concerns, and not disrespectful hate mail. But I'm sure they'd be interested in your opinions.
Posted 1:44 AM by Joshua Claybourn
O Christmas Tree, continued
For those of you that aren't from IU Indy and are interested in learning more about this progressive new policy, contact information on the school's administration can be found here.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Posted 2:25 PM by Kelly
O Christmas Tree

Upon my return to campus after thanksgiving break, I was pleased to see that a large decorated Christmas tree had been erected at one end of our beautiful atrium.
(I did study over break - just not on campus).

Today, one of my observant classmates pointed out that the tree is gone. Rumor has it that the tree was too controversial and so it was removed.

That sucks. The tree was pretty and helped to put me in the spirit of the season, which was much needed during this preparation-for-finals crunch time. Also, I didn't think a Christmas tree was a religious symbol - perhaps I am mistaken.

Update: See Lawren's inside info on the tree disappearance here.
Naked Intruder found in home--but that's not the odd part.

This article on the IndyChannel seemed postworthy to me. Not because it involves a naked intruder. I've heard of those before. I remember a story from Bloomington of an off-duty police officer wandering into a home and disrobing. No, what caught my eye here was that at first the intruder gave an alias, Chad Carter. He was later identified as John Doe IV.
Monday, December 01, 2003
Posted 9:37 PM by Lawren
Disclaimer: I received the below forward from a local attorney. I don't attest to its truth, but it's amusing nonetheless.

A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire among other things.

Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires." The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars in the
normal fashion.

The lawyer sued...and won!

In delivering the ruling the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The Judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire, and was
obligated to pay the claim.

Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the "fires."

NOW FOR THE BEST PART... After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!!!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

This was the 1st place winner in the recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.

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