« National Library Week Celebration and Events at the UW Law Library | Main | LRB Twitter Feed »

Diploma Privilege: 7th Circ. Questions State-focus of Legal Education in WI; Law Prof. Responds

In his blog, BYU Law professor, Gordon Smith, formerly of the UW Law School, responds to criticism leveled by several Seventh Circuit judges who question the state-focus of legal education in Wisconsin as related to the diploma privilege.

The criticisms are in response to a case before the court which is "challenging the privilege as a violation of the dormant commerce clause, by treating the in-state law schools and their graduates more favorably than those from out-of-state."

"Defending the privilege in her brief to the court, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sloan Lattis asserted that the privilege is justifiable because it is an 'undisputed fact that only Wisconsin law schools systematically instruct in Wisconsin law.' "

Judges Richard Posner, Diane Wood, and Kenneth F. Ripple all challenged this assertion. Posner specifically stated that he doubted there is any Wisconsin content taught in Wisconsin law schools and later, he called the contention that there is such content "a complete fiction," and bluntly said, "I don't believe you. I don't believe the courses are any different from those in Indiana or Illinois."

Professor Smith refutes this criticism: "As a former contracts law professor at Wisconsin, I can attest that every section of Contracts uses the so-called 'Wisconsin Materials,' which are heavy on Wisconsin law."

He also points to the "strong Wisconsin focus in the work of the Remington Center" and the school's "long tradition -- expressed in the University's Wisconsin Idea -- of connecting the study of law to the State of Wisconsin" through state-focused scholarly works.

In summary, Smith states that

This blog post is not offered as a complete justification of the State's defense of the diploma privilege, but rather as some mild pushback on the assumption that the University of Wisconsin Law School is no different from law schools in Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, or Oklahoma. While Wisconsin prides itself on being a national law school, the connection to Wisconsin was still much in evidence while I was there.
Read more about the case at the Wisconsin Law Journal