Supreme Court Review Ranked Most Influential Legal Journal

They Publish No Review Before Its Time
Jeremy Crimmins
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
June 4, 2005

The Supreme Court Review published by the University of Chicago Law School came out six months late this year, as usual.

"Everybody knows" it will be late, and it doesn't matter, said the senior editor, Professor Dennis J. Hutchinson.

That's because The Supreme Court Review has the highest impact rating of any law review in America, according to a study by the law school of Washington & Lee University.

The study is called the "Most-Cited Legal Periodicals U.S. and selected non-U.S" from 1997 through 2004. It can be found on the Internet at http://www.law.wlu.edu/library/mostcited/index.asp.

The articles in The Supreme Court Review, based on citations per article, are cited more often than those in The Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review and hundreds of other such periodicals.

Founded by Philip B. Kurland in 1960, The Supreme Court Review comes out once a year with 8 to 10 articles. It's in hardback.

Kurland believed "that there weren't enough outlets for the sort of in depth, sustained criticism of the court" and that "senior authors in the field should be encouraged to write thoughtful and critical analysis ...," Hutchinson said.

Kurland himself was an internationally renowned scholar of the U.S. Constitution who taught at U of C law for more than 40 years.

Asked why The Supreme Court Review would be so popular when almost every American daily newspaper publishes instant analysis of Supreme Court opinions, Hutchinson said the Review's depth and thoroughness set it apart.

"Typically a Supreme Court Review article is 40 to 50 pages," he said, "and instead of a few hundred words," each article runs 15,000 to 20,000 words. Each describes, for example, a case or a trend, or an historical incident, or a political scientist's analysis of the court's behavior.

Too many legal journals, according to Hutchinson, display academics writing for each other. "We want to be a vehicle not only for academics but for judges and lawyers and others who follow the court closely and carefully."

The Supreme Court Review is edited by top flight faculty, including U of C professors law David A. Strauss and Geoffrey R. Stone. Most law reviews are edited by students.

As to why its faculty-edited, Hutchinson said, "Why not?" It is "preposterous," he said, that most law reviews are student edited. "Law is the only discipline in which that's true, and it's only true in this country."

Most of the articles in The Supreme Court Review are solicited by the editors rather than picked from over-the-transom submissions.

"That's been the practice since the outset of the journal," Hutchinson explained. "Each year, we publish one or two unsolicited" out of the 25 to 50 unsolicited manuscripts they receive, he added. The rest of the articles are commissioned.

The Review has sought to encourage articles from a variety of scholars including historians, political scientists and sociologists in addition to law professors.

Hutchinson said that particular effort is becoming more difficult. "It's part of the self-segregation of the academic disciplines these days that scholars more and more want to write within journals in their field" partly because of the proliferation of journals.

"Historians are the ones we can still rely on," he said. "In the most recent edition, the lead article is about Justice Holmes."

The author of the lead article, Vincent A. Blasi, is a professor at Columbia University Law School and an expert on civil liberties. He writes such things as, "Milton's Areopagitica and the Modern First Amendment" (Yale Law School Occasional Papers, Mar. 1995).

Blasi's article in The Supreme Court Review, 2004, on Oliver Wendell Holmes is entitled, "Holmes and The Marketplace of Ideas." Blasi says he is "looking beneath the surface of Holmes's metaphor ... to suggest promising lines of thought concerning the value and function of free speech."

Other articles in the 2004 edition range from how American courts prefer "minimalist" legal interpretations in times of war, by U. of C. Professor Cass R. Sunstein; to the court's missteps in defining children's rights; to "Should federal courts police partisan gerrymandering?"

Hutchinson said the Review tries to avoid theoretical fads.

An example of an academic fad so far ignored, he said, is "the Constitution in Exile movement." This has inspired some submissions that have not been accepted, according to Hutchinson.

Conversely, in the May 2 edition of the magazine "Legal Affairs," Randy E. Barnett, professor at Boston University School of Law, argues that "the Constitution in Exile" movement does not exist. Barnett's says it was created only by its opponents, or, namely by scholars who oppose the original interpretation of the Constitution in order to make fun of the "originalists."

Describing why The Supreme Court Review always comes out late, Hutchinson said, "We've been willing to cut our authors a fair amount of slack in terms of meeting deadlines."

If the 2004 edition "actually came out at the end of 2004," he said, the time between the last Supreme Court decision at the end of June and the December publication would be only six months.

This, he said, "is not enough to have the sort of quality writing we want at the length we want with the editorial care we want to devote to it."

Copyright 2005 Law Bulletin Publishing Company