"Are Law Professors Good Political Appointees?"

My colleague Ann Carlson (Environment & Law) offers some thoughts.

The Oversimplifier:
2.6.2009 6:10pm
John Yoo
2.6.2009 6:38pm
Maybe, maybe not. But perhaps a more useful question is whether law professors are, on average, any worse than non-law-professor appointees.
2.6.2009 7:11pm
Phil (mail):
Interesting. I was just thinking about this today. Any 9th grader should be able to read and interpret the Constitution and the amendments. The meaning is quite clear. And yet we have so many laws which don't fit under the Constitution which are upheld in court every day. Apparently going to law school interferes with ones ability to understand the Constitution. Perhaps we need Supreme Court justices who have not been to law school?
2.6.2009 7:16pm
Franklyn (mail):
A dilemma. Is a "bird's eye view" [per Prof. Carlson] of policy considerations in a political appointee more desirable than that of one using a magnifying glass? I'm with Cynic and Phil on this. Depends on other factors, probably.
2.6.2009 7:36pm
Eric Muller (www):
All of the others suck, but I would be awesome.
2.6.2009 7:45pm
Law Professors probably have less tax problems.
2.6.2009 9:00pm
Martin0000 (mail):
Law professors in government often do a good job of combining theoretical and practical perspectives as compared with either other academics or non-academics. While individuals obviously vary, law professors are generically pretty good bets for government appointments. This is less true, though not entirely untrue for law professors who do more than dabble in:

law and economics (except as applied to traditional antitrust and business law subjects)

constitutional law

libertarian theory

any field whose name ends in "studies"
2.6.2009 9:32pm
TokyoTom (mail):
"Good"? In what sense?

Unless they`re a heck of alot smarter than the alternatives, law profs aren`t any more or less dangerous to the public interest than anyone else serving in an advisory or administrative capacity, in that they`re just as human as anyone else and so just as likely to be trying to maximize what they see as their own interests. If they`re smarter than alternatives, they may be MORE danderous, since they may be more effective in seeking personal gain, though their effectiveness may be blunted if they are complete newcomers.

As political appointees to a President who has a pre-determined agenda but wants to avoid appearances of having sold out to particular rent-seeking interests, they may of course be "good" in the sense that, because they are not administrative, legislative or K Street insiders, outsiders cannot as easily criticize them or their work as being intended to favor one group or another. This may help to ease the adoption of whatever agenda the President/his main advisers/supporters have in mind.
2.6.2009 11:16pm
D Kosloff (mail):
Inasmuch as law professors are more likely to be divorced from the reality of normal life, they are more likely to be bad advisors. That being said, if they are working with a bunch of other advisors who were previously equipment operators, nurses, EMT, policemen and QC inspectors; then that would be good for all concerned. On the other hand a law professor who had a real job for five years would be a better advisor than almost anybody in DC.
2.7.2009 10:34am
PeterWimsey (mail):
I think it depends more on the background of the law prof than on the fact that he or she is a law prof.

The typical prof who graduated from LS, clerked for a couple of years, and then became an academic...I don't think that he would be very good in any sort of administrative position simply due to lack of relevant experience. A law prof who graduated, clerked, worked in a relevant industry or government agency, and then became a prof - I think that this person could do quite well due to the combination of practical experience and time to reflect on the experience.
2.7.2009 5:02pm

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