Law and Order: Overthought

Credit: Overthinkingit.com

I’m sure that pretty much all denizens of law schools have, at some point watched at least one episode of Law and Order (or its many, many spin-offs) and, in all likelihood, groaned at some point. While it’s undeniably entertaining, it is also frequently larded with clichés, improbabilities, bad law, and an overly Manichean outlook. After twenty years and over four hundred episodes, these certainly pile up to the extent of “here we go again.”

So, if you’ve ever wondered exactly what would happen if you were to subject the series to an overly rigorous statistical analysis, today is your lucky day. The good folks over at Overthinkingit.com have done it for you, and it took only (!!) two years.

Take a look at it here.

Thanks to the Law Librarian Blog for bringing this to my attention!

Superheroes and the law?

While the law can be alternately deadly serious or patently ridiculous (often in the midst of a single case!), it is always refreshing to read legal writing where the author is clearly enjoying the material. If you learn something – even better!

In December 2010, I read about a novel new legal blog in the New York Times called Law and the Multiverse. It has since taken off, with a newly-published book to show for it (alas, it is not yet in the library collection).

A clear example of the aforementioned style of legal writing, it is written by two American lawyers, James Daily and Ryan Davidson, who also happen to be enormous comic book nerds. The premise of the blog is simultaneously extremely simple and extremely clever:

What would happen if real laws applied to the denizens of the comic book multiverse?

So if you ever wondered what would happen if you were convicted of murder and the victim came back to life, if Superman’s heat vision is a weapon, or if evidence collected by Batman could be used by Commissioner Gordon to convict somebody in court, then this is the blog for you.

Although the subject matter is all American-oriented, it is nevertheless extremely entertaining to read about the application of various laws to altogether implausible scenarios. While the premise was initially focused on comic books, it has since expanded to other mediums, with Looper as a recent two-part focus. It is easy to get lost in the archived posts, which are uniformly well-written and straight-faced.

Death and Taxes and Zombies

Law reviews are not usually noted for their humour. However, Adam Chodorow, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Innovative Ventures at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, addresses this shortcoming in legal scholarship and another major policy shortcoming in a forthcoming article in the Iowa Law Review. Here’s an abstract of the article.

The US stands on the precipice of a financial disaster, and Congress has done nothing but bicker. Of course, I refer to the coming day when the undead walk the earth, feasting on the living. A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead. The government’s failure to anticipate or plan for this eventuality could cripple its ability to respond effectively, putting us all at risk. This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2045255

The article is well worth reading, if just for the authorities cited in the footnotes. (Experienced readers of legal scholarship know the best writing is often in the footnotes.)

Thanks to David Cheifetz and Slaw for bringing this to our attention.