Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network - Mary Anne Case, "'You're Telling Me It's Wrong to Do to the Prisoners What the Army Does to Its Own Soldiers?'" (Gender Performance Requirements of the U.S. Military in the War on Islamic Terrorism)

Document Type


Publication Date


Conference / Event Title

Association of American Law Schools (AALS) 2012 Annual Meeting: Academic Freedom and Academic Duty

Conference / Event Location

Washington, DC

Hosting Organization

George Washington University Law School


The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network is a newly-constituted group that seeks to bring together scholars across a range of fields who are interested in feminist legal theory. At our inaugural get-together at the Law and Society Association meeting this past June, we decided to hold two get-togethers in the coming year: the first in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the AALS annual meeting in January 2012; the next in Hawaii, in conjunction with the Law and Society Association annual meeting in June 2012. The first of these gatherings will take place on Wednesday, January 4, 2012, the day before the AALS annual meeting begins, at George Washington University Law School. As with our earlier get-together, the conference will provide an opportunity for us to share scholarship, talk about our field more abstractly, and also get to know one another. If you are interested in attending, we invite you to register, as well as to respond to our call for papers at the end of this invitation.

The FLT-CRN Conference will begin at 9 a.m. on January 4, 2012, and will conclude that day with dinner at a local restaurant. G.W. has generously offered us space for the meeting at no charge, and is even providing us lunch. Because of this, there will be no registration fee for the conference. Paying for dinner, as well as hotel and transportation, will be the individual responsibility of attendees.

Conference sessions

The conference will consist of the following sessions:

  1. Welcome plenary. The committee will give a brief overview of the conference, followed by an opportunity for participants to introduce themselves and briefly summarize their current scholarly projects, teaching challenges, etc. This should give everyone an opportunity to identify areas of mutual interest that can be discussed further over the course of the day.
  2. Panel sessions. These sessions will be similar to the panels at the LSA conference this past June. At each of these sessions, there will likely be three panelists speaking on papers that center on a common theme, and each paper will have an individual commentator.
  3. Works-in-progress sessions. These will be small breakout sessions designed to foster intensive discussion of each work-in-progress. The size of each workshop will depend on the number of works-in-progress submitted. Each paper will have a commentator, who will assume that all attendees will have read the paper in advance and will proceed immediately to discussion. All conference participants will be assigned to attend specific workshops, so as to balance attendance among the various workshops. If more papers are submitted than time allows to be discussed, the planning committee will select the papers that will be presented based on subject matter, methodology, etc.
  4. Closing plenary. This plenary will provide everyone with an opportunity to comment on their conference experience and offer suggestions for future FLT-CRN meetings.


The theme for the 2012 Annual Meeting centers around academic freedom and academic duty – including threats to tenure and to academic freedom, and the concomitant academic duty obligations that arise out of our status as tenured professors. There have been many serious threats to academic freedom arising from the environment and the polity: a law faculty member arrested in Rwanda for his pro bono representation of an opposition candidate in an election matter there; a law faculty-journal editor sued for criminal libel in France for publishing a book review; law school clinics reviled for their work as well as threatened legislatively and in the courts in Maryland, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and in several other states; a law scholar sued for her research on family law, whose university chose not to indemnify her; a law review that pulled a piece from publication, following threats from the company criticized in the article; and other law faculty and non-law faculty punished for their views.

The zone of protected professorial speech is shrinking. In the 2006 Garcetti v. Ceballos case, the Supreme Court ruled that when public employees speak “pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline,” regardless of whether or not the speech involves a “matter of public concern.” Almost immediately, this limited decision was used by lower courts to allow public colleges to sanction faculty who would not have been punished for their views before Garcetti. Legal scholars and the academy have begun to recognize that this case will likely negatively impact college governance policies and practices.

The academy must identify and contend with these external threats as they arise both in legal education and in other fields of study. These programs will draw additional attention to international threats to law professors and academics around the world, as exemplified by the admirable work conducted by Scholars at Risk, who try and rescue these imperiled colleagues to safer situations. Attention must be paid to these examples, which are too common and which diminish us all, even when seemingly-remote threats arise; the bell tolls on behalf of us all. In addition, sessions will spell out the correlative obligations to undertake service and draw attention to the features inherent in academic duty.

There are many other threats as well, such as law school accreditors considering de-coupling their tenure requirements from their insistence upon academic freedom, and no longer requiring a system of tenure or security of position. It is difficult to square these developments with the increased attention we at AALS have paid to our core values. Arguments for tenure include that the promise of continual employment gives faculty an incentive to work on behalf of the institution and that good faculty governance requires a tenure system. Even at major institutions, particularly public universities with the decline of state support so evident, faculty governance is rapidly eroding as changed economic conditions are undermining longstanding governance structures.

Part of our social contract is that we contribute, particularly to legal reform—however defined—and not just work for hire and pay. In fair exchange for extraordinary discretion and deference accorded us, we must repay these privileges with our academic duty. We need not merely speculate about this responsibility, as it is explicated in substantial detail in the Statement of Good Practices by Law Professors in the Discharge of their Ethical and Professional Responsibilities (“Responsibilities to the Bar and General Public”), available at www.aals.org/statements/. These are aspirational, but lay out the premise of Academic Duty.

The 2012 Annual Meeting’s presidential sessions in Washington, D.C., will examine these and related issues of legal education in this new century. Those crucial issues are: financing legal education and its implications on financial aid and student debt; the restructuring of the professoriate; the institutional balance of instructional technology, distance learning, and asynchronous faculty-student interaction; service learning and skills training issues; and more creative curricular developments in the third year of the J.D. Moreover, General Agreement on Trade in Services, 1995 treaty (GATS) and other international negotiations will affect bar membership and legal practice eligibility, in ways not yet divined. All these issues and others are worthy of attention in our deliberations and ongoing dialogues. We do not have a single answer for any of these complex and interlocking issues, but we feel that these likely are among the right questions.