Choosing the next editor of the law review.

It so happens that we are right in the middle of election season for law review boards. At top law schools around the country, 2Ls who want to be Supreme Court clerks — or Supreme Court justices, or even presidents — are finding out if they’ll be able to include “Editor in Chief: Law Review” on their résumés for the rest of their lives. At less prestigious schools, 2Ls are hoping that a place on the editorial board of their school’s law review will help them get a job upon graduation.

(And people who are not on law review have another week or two to get hammered and enjoy the fledgling spring before they need to hunker down and cram for finals.)

The people involved in law review elections take the popularity contest selection process very seriously. At many places, the debates over whom to pick last well into the night, and the election takes many ballots before a winner is declared. The process at many places is so ritualistic, it’s a wonder that newly minted editors-in-chief don’t adopt new names when they win, just like the Popes. Can’t you see it now: Homosextius I of the Harvard Law Review?

Of course, if there are winners, there have to be losers. And some losers don’t take their losing lying down. Thanks to the magic of forwarded emails, we are able to bring you one such story of law-review-losing bitterness…

When you lose a law review election, you can take it in stride and move on with your life. Or you can whine like a little baby. This 2L at Rutgers Law – Newark chose the later option. After losing his bid to become the next EIC of the Rutgers Law Review, he sent out the email below, to everybody on the law review staff (2Ls and 3Ls), as well as some of his non-law review friends. We’ll call him “Sourpuss.”

Hello [Redacted],

I’m okay.

Thanks for your support. I am grateful for the support that I received from you and everyone else.

At least I am happy that of all the candidates, I received more 2L votes than anybody else, and in their eyes, I would be the most ideal candidate for Editor-in-Chief.

Compared with the 3Ls, the 2L class essentially cast their votes based upon their individual knowledge of the candidates, their individual belief in fairness and their individual conscience.

The way the 3L class voted essentially distorted the spirit of the election. Given the fact that they will be gone in few weeks and couldn’t care less about what happens thereafter with the Law Review, it is pretty sad that the 2L class couldn’t pick the candidate of their choice.

However, in retrospect, I have to admit that I made a fatal mistake – I forgot Newton’s law – “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. I shouldn’t have worked so hard for it.

— [Sourpuss]

Dude, aren’t you supposed to add some gin or scotch to this? I thought people usually mixed their bitters into something.

What’s sad is that there might be a legitimate point here (more on that later), but any point he may have had was ruined by the “I shouldn’t have worked so hard” line. I mean, what is that? That’s something a spoiled teenager says when his parents don’t buy him a car.

That smart thing to do at this point would be to just ignore the email (or forward it to Above the Law), and get back to your regularly scheduled programing. But at least one Rutgers 3L just couldn’t let the losing candidate have his “inappropriate reaction” moment:

Sourpuss, I am only sending this to yourself and my 3L colleagues whom you have inappropriately slandered.

I am insulted on both a personal level and on behalf of my (and your) colleagues who spent their Friday in a small, warm room engaged in a serious, reasoned debate about the future of the Rutgers Law Review. Not having been there, you simply lack any ability or capacity to cast judgment upon the 3Ls’ motives or concerns regarding the selection of the EIC (for which over 2 and 1/2 hours was spent discussing).

The fact that you would send out such a mass email, and for whatever asinine reason include a few students who are not even on Law Review and Professor Paradise (whom I have excised from this response), brilliantly encapsulates why you were not selected for a leadership position. While the dignified discussions held amongst the 3Ls shall remain secret, I have no problem illustrating for you why your email demonstrates why you were not elevated to a leadership role. First, Law Review, and law school, do not occur in a vacuum. As you correctly note, those against whom you level your baseless, careless and ignorant allegations will be soon graduating into the greater legal world, which is a small world indeed. You too will presumably be entering that world in a short time, and you should consider how you interact with people now can echo through time.

Second, what the 3Ls understand about Law Review is what it takes to run it. Dedication alone is not enough. Producing quality work is not enough. Whomever is selected to run a law review, or any organization for that matter, must also demonstrate an ability to command respect from those they will be tasked to lead. The Law Review is not an army of one. If leadership fails there is a severe risk that the enterprise itself will fail, since it takes more time and effort than any one person can muster to put out four issues quality issues a year. Your tactless email demonstrates my fear that you do not possess the maturity to lead.

Finally, I do not apologize for this email going out to everyone. No one has to read it. Nor do I claim to speak for anyone but myself. But I could not allow the good names of my colleagues to be besmirched in such a petulant fashion. You should know that the editors who took the time to come to the elevation meeting on Friday did so with the best of intentions. The 2Ls were not ignored. In fact, we were not made aware of the 2L vote until after our votes for EIC were already cast. So if you have a problem with the procedure, then do the democratic thing and try to work a change from the inside. Although to follow your logic, such an effort should come from next year’s 2L staff, since 3Ls are not up to the job of making decisions about who is running the Law Review.

I have been greatly impressed with most of the 2Ls that I have interacted with this year, and I believe that the newly elevated Editors, especially the leadership, will do a fine job of carrying on the traditions and prestige of the Rutgers Law Review. I hope you are able to learn from this experience, put your grievances behind you and comport yourself in a more dignified manner among your own peers in the future.

Man, Rutgers 3L, why so serious? The kid lost and was pissed about it. The “good names” of your friends have not been “slandered” or “besmirched.” If anything, the most dignified response would have been no response at all. Now we have to wonder if the 3L doth protest too much.

Because, you know, it’s legitimate to ask whether or not 3Ls with a foot out of the door should have as much say about the leadership of next year’s law review as 2Ls. Sure, you respect that 3Ls have been there and done that, but since none of them are going to be around, one can imagine other ways to capture that institutional memory without acquiescing to this kind of dead-hand control.

In theory, a person in Sourpuss’s situation could have a legitimate beef. If it was a close election, maybe you could argue that the 3L vote shouldn’t have as much weight as the will of the 2Ls. But in the instant case, it’s really not that much of an issue. The 3Ls resoundingly rejected Sourpuss.

Check out the final point totals of Sourpuss and the eventual winner. According to the Rutgers rules, points are determined as follows:

[E]ach first place vote is worth 3 points, each second place vote is worth 2 points, and each third place vote is worth 1 point.

Here’s the vote from the staff members:

Sourpuss: 41pts (1st place)
Winner: 31pts (2nd place)

And here’s how the outgoing 3L editorial board voted:

Sourpuss: 4pts (6th place)
Winner: 86pts (1st place)

Guys, that’s not a horse race, it’s a massacre. If we can agree that 3Ls should at least have some voice in the law review electoral process, the Rutgers 3Ls made themselves heard loud and clear with respect to this choice.

Maybe the older, wiser 3Ls saw in Sourpuss a guy who would send out mass emails of frustration whenever things didn’t go his way? If so, they sure did next year’s Rutgers Law Review a favor by saving them from themselves.


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