An Amusing Law Review Article Title

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

There are often attempts at humor or wit in law review article titles, and many of them fail. (Many attempts at humor or wit in other contexts fail, too.) But every so often one comes around that works (or at least works for me); and when it does work, it can make the work more eye-catching and memorable, pique the reader's interest, and put the reader in a good mood. I still remember an article title I saw in the early 1990s, Ken Gormley's "One Hundred Years of Privacy"; this both communicated the article's essence (a look back on the privacy tort a century after Warren and Brandeis first proposed it), and humorously alluded to the novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

Another such title was Michael Stokes Paulsen's "A RFRA Runs Through It," echoing the title of the movie "A River Runs Through It." (True, one risk of such allusions is that they can become dated; perhaps these days most people won't make the connection.) People who are familiar with religious freedom law know that RFRA is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, commonly pronounced "riff-rah," not that different from "river." The article's thesis was that after the enactment of the federal RFRA, the entire U.S. Code should be read as if RFRA had amended each statute, and changed the policy balance struck by the drafters of each statute—hence RFRA runs through the entire Code, so the joke is apt. Plus the article was published in a symposium conducted by the Montana Law Review, and the movie was set in Montana.

In any event, I just came across another one that I wanted to mention: "The Law of Gravity," by Isaac Newton. No, wait, it's by Rachel López, and here's an excerpt from the abstract:

Gravity is frequently referenced in treaties, judicial decisions of international and regional bodies, human rights reports, and the resolutions and proclamations of various bodies of the United Nations. These documents refer to certain violations of international law as being "gross," "serious," and "grave." These terms are frequently used interchangeably but seldom defined, and it is often unclear what makes a violation particularly grave. Is it the extreme harm to the victim, the type of rights involved, who committed the violation, or rather the intent of the wrongdoer?

Despite the lack of clarity around the concept, classifying a violation as grave has significant legal consequences under international law. Gravity can determine whether an international court has jurisdiction to prosecute a crime or when a treaty monitoring body can take up an issue. States are prohibited from selling arms to other States if they commit grave violations of human rights or humanitarian law. Gravity has also been used to justify military intervention or punishing a State more harshly for its wrongful acts.

This Article brings more grounding to gravity by examining the concept in all of its forms and offers the first scholarly treatment of gravity across public international law as a whole….

Nice.

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  1. A weighty subject, but the masses will no doubt ignore it.

    1. I think you are underestimating the force of her arguments.

    2. Kudos for being first out of the gate with an impactful comment.

      LawTalkingGuy then correctly noted that “force” was the fundamental concept, though the concomitant factor of acceleration went unmentioned.

  2. This Article brings more grounding to gravity

    Ouch.

  3. I recently found my old research on an article I hadn’t revisited in about 20 years. The proposed title was “Republicans and Sinners: Legal Protection for a Well-Earned Bad Name.” The idea was that at times a bad reputation is a valuable asset in the pursuit of legitimate enterprises and that the law ought to protect it, even though existing defamation law was squarely against it. The title came from a Mark Twain essay on schoolkids’ howlers, including a reference to “Republicans and sinners” by some schoolkid who had gotten confused about “publicans and sinners.” This was especially apt because some court decisions refer to the alleged absurdity of bringing a defamation suit for falsely claiming that a Democrat is a Republican. I also led the article with an epigraph from The Maltese Falcon where Sam Spade tells Bridget O’Shaugnessy how a seamy reputation was an asset for an honest private detective.
    Now that retirement is approaching, I may revisit the thing.

    1. Publish soon while your intended title still has maximal impact. (Heaven forfend that your title ever becomes more apt and effective than at the present time.)

  4. Let’s not forget “The Best Puffery Article Ever.”

  5. So law review is at the same level as porn?

    I, ahem, understand the porn industry does the same thing, e.g. On Golden Pond ⇒ On Golden Blond.

  6. Gravity, Shmavity.

    1. The disregard you show for science is equivalent to that shown by Donald Trump.

      1. I could never compete with the disregard Donald Trump shows for anything or anyone. In this instance I am merely offering an homage to the [disregard? regard? you decide] our esteemed blogmeister once showed for civil litigation.

  7. Publish soon while your intended title still has maximal impact. (Heaven forfend that your title ever becomes more apt and effective than at the present time.)

  8. The old hack that “the book was better” applies here. Norm Maclean was a U. Chicago instructor who labored over his prose for years and years. Almost every sentence in A River Runs Through It has a lapidary quality to it. Not much longer than a novella, you can tell how hard he labored over each turn of a phrase.
    Maclean comes to mind for me out here on the fire-ravaged Left Coast because the only other work of his that was published was Young Men and Fire, a breathtaking history about a group of firefighters who perished in a 1949 forest fire. Although a nonfiction work, it’s so poetic and immersive that you feel the “animal” nature of fire as he relates the story and his own experience fighting a different fire.

  9. Actually, there’s a law against funny law review article titles, known as the Law of Gravitas.

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