Search This Blog

Monday, April 21, 2014

Which Law Review Has Held the Most "Influential" Symposium on the Second Amendment?

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel has a post about his new article, The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment, which is forthcoming in the Tennessee Law Review.

In his post, Kopel writes:

Back in 1995, the Tennessee Law Review published a symposium issue on the Second Amendment and firearms policy. That symposium was probably the most influential law review symposium ever published on the topic.
I disagree.

Back in 2009, the UCLA Law Review held a symposium entitled, The Right to Bear Arms After D.C. v. Heller. Here is a link to the Concurring Opinions post on that symposium, which has links to each of the articles in that symposium.

I have drawn on several of the articles from UCLA's symposium in my own papers on the Second Amendment, and I recalled that they had appeared to be widely-cited. Motivated by Law School and Law Review pride, I decided to compare the citation counts of Tennessee's symposium articles compared to the citation counts of UCLA's symposium articles. I determined citation rates based on Westlaw Next's "Citing References" function. In line with Westlaw's divisions of citations, I distinguished citations between citations in court opinions, secondary sources (like treatises and law review articles), appellate court documents, and trial court documents.

While "influence" is a difficult thing to quantify, citations are probably a good proxy, since they indicate how widely read and relied upon a journal's articles are. Moreover, citations are the primary factor in determining law journal rankings, so I don't think that my use of citation counts is totally off-base here.

Here are the results of my survey:

Tennessee Law Review Symposium (1995)

8 Articles in the symposium issue

19 Cases
10 Federal Circuit Cases
4 State Supreme Court Cases
2 Federal District Cases
3 State Court of Appeals Cases
366 Secondary Sources
63 Appellate Court Documents
12 Trial Court Documents

TOTAL: 460
(385 cases and secondary sources)

UCLA Law Review Symposium (2009)

14 Articles in the symposium issue

55 Cases
2 U.S. Supreme Court Case Citations (Both from McDonald v. City of Chicago dissent)
28 Federal Circuit Cases (two in dissenting opinions)
5 State Supreme Court Cases
15 Federal District Cases
5 State Court of Appeals Cases
337 Secondary Sources
101 Appellate Court Documents
25 Trial Court Documents

TOTAL: 518
(392 cases and secondary sources)

From these numbers, it looks like the UCLA Law Review Symposium issue has had more influence than the Tennessee Law Review Symposium Issue. While Tennessee had more secondary source citations than UCLA, UCLA pulled ahead by having more case citations. The breakdown of the types of cases indicates that the cases citing UCLA's articles were of a comparable level of authority to the cases that cited the Tennessee articles. And I think that case citations are particularly important when it comes to measuring law journal influence, since these are citations in real cases, rather than other articles that nobody other than legal scholars will read.

There are a few objections somebody may make to my comparison . One might argue that UCLA's Symposium Issue had more articles than Tennesee's which gave UCLA more chances for citations. I agree that UCLA's per-article influence may be lower than Tennessee's, but the claim that I sought to test in my comparison was that Tennessee's symposium issue was more influential -- so my conclusion comparing the two issues as wholes stands. Because I am only evaluating this simple question, I found no need to control for time of publication (meaning that Tennessee stands at an advantage, since its articles were published 14 years before UCLA's).

One might also object to my listing of court documents. Westlaw probably has more court documents from recent years, and court documents citing the Tennessee articles soon after their publication may not be in the database, since these documents may have been submitted to courts in the late 1990's and early 2000's. While I am not sure how Westlaw's document-collecting procedures operate, even assuming that this objection is correct, UCLA still has more case and secondary source citations than Tennessee (although it is a much closer contest if one takes only these citations into account).

I would also like to note that I would not have reached this conclusion had it not been for Eugene Volokh's article, Implementing the Right to Keep and Bear Arms for Self-Defense: An Analytical Framework and Research Agenda. With 71 secondary source citations and 31 case citations, this article was certainly the most influential in the issue.

To conclude, while the Tennessee Law Review's 1995 symposium on the Second Amendment was notably influential, I do not think it is the most influential law review symposium on the issue. By my count, the UCLA Law Review's 2009 symposium holds that honor.

No comments:

Post a Comment