April 14, 2014 | Volume XXI, Issue 14

Florida Law Review Breaks Ground With Multimedia Article

Published: September 22nd, 2008

Category: Feature, News

Stephen A. Higginson

Stephen A. Higginson, associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

For the first time in history, the Florida Law Review has published a multimedia article. The article, Constitutional Advocacy Explains Constitutional Outcomes, was written by Stephen. A. Higginson, an associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Higginson included 178 links to audio recordings of oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court.

“Very few people are doing that,” Higginson said about multimedia articles. “When I sent it out, virtually all of the law journals said it looks interesting, but we aren’t sure how to do it.”

Larry Dougherty, Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Law Review, said they jumped at the opportunity to break ground with this type of article.

“It changes it completely. I share this experience, but others who read it say — the phrase I keep hearing is ‘It’s so different listening to the arguments,’” Dougherty said. “You can see what Professor Higginson is talking about, you can understand how people shape their arguments, and you can understand how the Justices work with those arguments. Totally different experience, a lot more satisfying.”

After law school, Higginson clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Byron White, which sparked his interest in this area.

Higginson wrote a smaller article for George Mason with audio clips, but he had this larger project in mind.

“My thesis was that the outcomes can only be understood if you go back to attorney advocacy,” Higginson said. “Many of the things stated in the court’s opinion assume immediate familiarity with what was actually disputed between adversarial lawyers.”

Higginson started using audio clips in his constitutional law class to help students understand what the lawyers were arguing.

“You can take almost any landmark Supreme Court case, and if you go back to the arguments, it just comes alive for students,” he said. “It comes alive in terms of the simplicity and power of the argument lawyers make and it comes alive because it’s the human reality of it. To actually hear a lawyer trying to defend something that is pretty unconscionable is an important thing. You can assign accountability for it; often it gets lost in the drier decision that is announced.”

Higginson realizes that most people don’t have time to listen to all 178 of the clips, but he has a few favorites.

“If you’re going to listen to any, listen to that first one (Brown v. Louisiana),” Higginson said. “I like clip number 10; it’s Texas v. Johnson, the flag-burning case. I like clips 81-90 because to me it’s really intriguing to know how Solicitor General [Robert] Bork talked the Court back into allowing capital punishment. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s just saber-like logic.”

Both Dougherty and Higginson see multimedia as an increased part of law review articles in the future.

“I think it has to be [a growing area],” Higginson said. “I watch the effect it has on students in class because it just walks them right into the courtroom. A lot of my article lets you just walk into the courtroom on that day, and you’re there.”

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