November 09, 2011
In a talk sponsored by the Harvard Federalist Society and moderated by HLS Professor Jeannie Suk, David Lat discussed the impact of blogging on the judiciary.
Lat, a former federal prosecutor-turned legal blogger, now edits "Above the Law," a news and opinion outlet covering the law, law schools, judges and courts.
After stints as an appellate-level law clerk as well as a litigation associate and federal prosecutor based in Newark, N.J., Lat converted to journalism. For half a decade now, he has been at the helm of "Above the Law."
Lat launched his journalism career pseudonymously writing "Underneath their Robes," a juicy gossip blog on federal judges. While blogging he used the pen name "Article III Groupie" until he outed himself as the blogger in a November 2005 profile in The New Yorker.
"What is the impact of blogging and online activities on jurisprudence?" Suk asked.
"The short answer is very little in terms of substantive law. But it stirs legal debate and chatter, even if in a somewhat limited way," Lat replied. But he added that there are three important "impacts at the margins."
First, bloggers and other online participants can play a useful role to supplement the traditional vetting machinery of the Senate Judiciary Committee (unearthing decisions, speeches, or other information that might otherwise be overlooked).
Second, they can flag important cases or issues for the Supreme Court or lower judicial benches to take up. Lat noted that many law professors blog knowledgeably, bringing to life ordinarily mundane legal debates.
Third, Lat said, he believes that the public could contribute to legal decision-making if courts were to post early drafts of decisions. Such measures could reduce errors in the significant judicial output among judges.