Ipse Dixit


Henry Thompson on Mafia Courts

Season 1, Ep. 757

In this episode, Henry A. Thompson, a Ph.D. student in economics at George Mason University, discusses his article "Cosa Nostra Courts." Here is the abstract:

This paper uses economic reasoning to analyze the traditions and institutions of one of the most successful criminal organizations in modern history: La Cosa Nostra (LCN). Drawing on recently declassified FBI reports, the paper's analysis shows that LCN's core institutions are best understood as attempts to protect its secrecy, an asset vulnerable to free riding by its own members. Individual members did not bear the full costs of secret-revealing police investigations and thus had a perverse incentive to resolve disputes violently. LCN preserved its secrecy by incentivizing peaceful reconciliation. La Cosa Nostra rules, and, more importantly, its informal court system, kept disputes from escalating into violence, thereby helping LCN avoid secrecy-threatening investigations. As a result, LCN has become one of the most successful and long-lived criminal organizations in the U.S.

This episode was hosted by Brian L. Frye, Spears-Gilbert Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Frye is on Twitter at @brianlfrye.

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Aliza Shatzman on Holding Judges Accountable

Season 1, Ep. 758
In this episode, Aliza Shatzman, an attorney and advocate based in Washington, DC, discusses her article "Untouchable Judges? What I've learned about harassment in the judiciary, and what we can do to stop it," which will be published in the UCLA Journal of Gender & Law. Here is the abstract:Drawing from the author’s own experience of gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation during her clerkship and in the years following it by a former DC Superior Court judge, this Article analyzes the deficits in current federal and DC judicial reporting systems to demonstrate the urgent need for reform. I argue that harassment in the judiciary is pervasive, due to both enormous power disparities between judges and law clerks, and various institutional barriers that perpetuate misconduct and discourage reporting. I survey existing methods of judicial discipline in both the federal and DC Courts and argue that these provide insufficient redress for workplace misconduct. I then discuss the Judiciary Accountability Act (JAA) (HR 4827/S 2553), which would finally protect judiciary employees, including law clerks and federal public defenders, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enabling employees to sue their harassers and seek damages for harm done to their careers, reputations, and future earning potential. Furthermore, I argue that the DC Courts should be included in the JAA, because they are Article I courts created and regulated by Congress, and DC Courts judges are arguably federal judges for Title VII and disciplinary purposes. I also offer a variety of other proposed reforms, which would both strengthen the JAA and provide additional protections to uniquely vulnerable judiciary employees. I conclude by reflecting on my attempts to report the misconduct I experienced, how the systems failed me when I tried to report, and my efforts to seek justice for myself and accountability for the misbehaving former judge.This episode was hosted byBrian L. Frye, Spears-Gilbert Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Frye is on Twitter at@brianlfrye.