The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

An Amusing Law Review Article Title


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….