May 20, 2005

Law journal earns widespread praise

Among the thousands upon thousands of law reviews in the country, the Law School's Supreme Court Review has been recently named as the most cited, and one of the most influential law periodicals in the country. In a recent study published by Washington and Lee University School of Law, the Supreme Court Review was shown to be the most cited periodical in both Lexis and Westlaw, two of the most frequently used legal databases.

The Supreme Court Review, established in 1960, was created to comment on the implications of recent Supreme Court decisions, as well as maintain the forefront of the origins, reforms, and interpretation of American constitutional law. "The Review was born on the conviction that because the Court had assumed such a central role in the development of social policy that careful critical analysis of its work was even more essential than before," said Dennis Hutchinson, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College, a senior lecturer in the Law School, and an editor of the Supreme Court Review. Geoffrey R. Stone, the Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law, and David A. Strauss, the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law, are also editors of the review.

Since its inception, the Supreme Court Review has been highly regarded as an important contribution towards bridging legal analysis and theoretical interpretation. Hutchinson praised the publication, citing "the authority of the authors and the perspective they bring to bear on their work, especially linking close analysis of opinions with broader theoretical implications."

In the Washington and Lee University study, the Review ranked highly among other notable legal journals, including the Harvard Law Review and the Yale Law Review. For many, the Law School publication's particular importance derives from its interdisciplinary approach to legal review. "Part of the Review's strength is that we work hard to see that scholars of the court from all germane disciplines, particularly historians and political scientists, have a forum for placing the work of the Supreme Court in its fullest context," Hutchinson said. The study also notes that the Review often tries to ignore theoretical fads, and instead offers unique interpretations and criticism.

Greater attention to the publication may reflect the importance of many groundbreaking Court decisions in recent years. The review has often tackled difficult constitutional questions, such as free speech, the 2000 election in Florida, and the death penalty. The articles published often set the precedent for further academic work on such subjects. "The Review's treatment of free speech, such as New York Times v. Sullivan, and fundamental questions such as the role of intent in constitutional analysis, the weight of history as it applies to constitutional analysis, and the dimensions of equality under the 14th Amendment have all produced frequently cited articles both at publication and over time," Hutchinson said. The Supreme Court Review has also recently received accolades from a Florida State University Law School survey of specialized legal journals.

Students at the Law School are particularly impressed and influenced by the works published in the Supreme Court Review. "It is an invaluable tool for any student of constitutional law. It dissects recent Supreme Court decisions and situates them in their proper historical and contextual backdrop—a viewpoint that is often difficult to glean for a beginning student," said Nirav Shah, a second-year student in the Law School.

The Review is also unique in that it is one of the very few law journals that is edited solely by law professors, and not by students. "The SCR is a faculty-edited journal, which is rare in legal academia. Must journals are student-edited. Being faculty-edited, we are able to recruit consistently first-class authors," said Geoffrey R. Stone, the Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law and an editor of the Supreme Court Review. With only faculty members as editors, the Review is also much more selective, choosing only to publish articles that concern timely Supreme Court decisions.

It is expected that the Review will continue its goal of providing unique insights and analysis on the most important legal decisions of the day. "The recipe for success is to select the right cases, enlist the best authors, offer efficient and serious editing, and publish in a timely manner," Stone said. The University of Chicago Press publishes the Supreme Court Review, and all past issues can be viewed and purchased on the University of Chicago Press website.