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Blackstone 8: Sexism & the Common Law

It’s common to criticize Blackstone for embracing the Common Law’s sexism. But a passage I read the other day made me critical of this attitude towards his work. It made me wonder if it is more a product of confusing what Blackstone wrote with such clarity about – the Common Law  – with his personal views. A passage where he

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On Blackstone 7: Camera Stellata

Camera Stellata is the Latin name for the Star Chamber, an English Royal prerogative court that evolved starting in the 14th century from the King’s Council that met at Westminster. The name comes from the azure ceilinged room with gilded stars the Council met in. Over the course of the next two centuries it became infamous for its inquisitorial and

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On Blackstone 7: The Lost Works

For all the Originalists’ trash talk I’m shocked that most of William Blackstone’s writings are out of print. In 2016, Oxford University Press published an edition of The Commentaries; but if you want to read other works by the man who invented modern legal scholarship you have to hunt. The 2006 edition of his Collected Letters is out of print,

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On Blackstone 6: Perjury, the FBI, & Obstruction of Justice

In Volume 4 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England Blackstone offers an instructive definition of perjury. He defines it narrowly as a false statement of material fact, made in court in front of a judge. He doesn’t count lying in a sworn affidavit, outside the presence of a judge and court, to be criminal perjury. For Blackstone, the

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What’s Up with WhatsApp: Thoughts on the NSO CFAA Complaint

I’ve been getting a lot of calls asking me what I think about the civil Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) lawsuit WhatsApp just filed in the Northern District of California against NSO. Below this post are links to my comments in the press. Here’s the complaint: I’m going to elaborate a little more on the complaint because it’s a

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Room 3420 and the Birth of the Internet

The internet turns 50 today. At 10:30pm PT on October 29, 1969 in room 3420 at UCLA the first networked digital data transmission was sent to a computer, 350 miles away, at Stanford University. The computer operator at Stanford replied, and the computer operator in Room 3420 gained access to the computer at Stanford. Prior to this communication between computers

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Constitutional Basics: Congressional Supremacy

The current presidential administration asserts so much intellectual garbage as valid constitutional theory I feel obligated to speak up. Reasonable people can, and do, disagree about constitutional interpretation. But there are limits to what can rationally be disagreed about, outside of which you’re just in a realm of cynical absurdity. Cynical because those arguing want you to believe that because

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On Blackstone 5: London Calling

I’m just back from client meetings in London. While there I spoke with a Queens Counsel (only 10% of Barristers are “QC”) who shared my mutual love of legal history. I was asking him if there was a bookstore in town where I could get decent copies of the great 17th century English jurist Sir Edward Coke’s (pronounced “cook”) influential

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Impeachment and Judicial Review

Recently the President suggested that the courts would intervene in his favor if Congress impeached him. Lawyers, scholars, and commentators mocked him for this because the Constitution explicitly places the power to impeach with Congress. But some of the President’s supporters, namely Rudy Giuliani and Alan Dershowitz, argue that judicial review – the power of courts to rule acts of

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