by Jeff Sovern
A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Georgetown Law Professor David Cole, titled What Liberals Can Learn From the N.R.A. Consumer advocates who seek to change the law would find the entire piece worth reading, but I was particularly struck by one paragraph (which is self-serving, both when written and quoted by a law professor):
The N.R.A. also enlisted the academy. Beginning in the 1980s, it offered grants and prizes designed to encourage scholarship that buttressed its view of the Second Amendment. With N.R.A. assistance, legal scholars transformed the academic understanding of the Second Amendment, so that by the time the Supreme Court ruled in Heller, the dominant view in the legal literature supported an individual right to bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion closely tracked that scholarship.
As I have noted before on this blog and elsewhere, I am often disappointed by how small the community of consumer law professors is. About two-thirds of US law schools offer neither a doctrinal course nor a clinic on consumer law, despite the significance of the subject. Many elite schools, from which law professors tend to come, don't offer the course. As a result, few professors write on consumer law, and students who might otherwise be inspired to write about the subject are not introduced to it. Consumer advocates would probably help their advocacy by mimicking the NRA and offering even more grants than they already do and especially prizes (indeed, the only prize I know of for consumer law scholarship is conferred by the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers). I don't speak only of law schools: some universities offer consumer science programs that research consumer issues which sometimes intersect with legal issues; my impression, however, is that the number of these programs has declined in recent years. Consumers and the country would be better off if the academe devoted more attention to consumer law and less to subjects that affect fewer Americans.