Born and educated in the United Kingdom, I am a lifelong supporter of Essex County Cricket Club and West Ham United FC. I obtained my law degrees from the universities of Sheffield and Warwick, and held posts at University College, Cardiff, and the University Birmingham (as well as a long-term visiting position at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania) before moving stateside to take up the offer of a professorship at Stetson University College of Law in Tampa Bay, Florida in 2005.
I love teaching, and think it’s a sadly undervalued skill. Much of this blog will be devoted to thoughts on how we could — and should — teach better.
But teaching isn’t all that I have done.
Between 1989 and 1991, I led an investigation into the activities of the notorious West Midlands Police Serious Crime Squad, which I documented in the book Unsafe and Unsatisfactory? published by the Civil Liberties Trust. One characteristic activity of Squad officers was the “plastic-bagging” where, in an attempt to force a suspect to confess, he would have his head shoved into a plastic bag until he was on the point of passing out. But the Squad’s stock-in-trade was the fabrication of confession statements. Squad officers would literally just make them up!
The Squad was disbanded soon after we announced our investigation and, subsequently, well over 100 individuals had their wrongful convictions overturned.
The ramifications of the Squad’s conduct and disbandment continue to be seen even now. During the recent inquest into the Hillsborough Disaster, it was finally confirmed — though we had long known — that significant aspects of the investigation into the police’s crowd control methods at Hillsborough were conducted by former Squad officers, who were supposed to have been moved to “non-operational duties.”
After the capsize in 1987 of the Herald of Free Enterprise, causing nearly 200 deaths, I led calls for the law to recognize more clearly the crime of corporate manslaughter. The acquittal of the Herald’s operating company showed that the law as it then stood effectively provided immunity to large corporations, while smaller business could be convicted (as happened after the Lyme Bay tragedy). Finally, English law closed this loophole with the passage of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act in 2007.
I co-founded (with Lynne Townley) the Blackstone (now the Oxford University Press) National Mooting Competition. Lynne and I also also co-authored Blackstone’s Book of Moots.
I was also the first chairman and chief operating officer of the LNAT Consortium Ltd., a corporation formed by top British law schools to oversee a new National Admissions Test for Law (the LNAT). Unlike the LSAT, whose use by law schools in the US seems to have moved a long way from the original reasons for having such a test, the LNAT enabled me, as Dean for Admissions in the law school at the University of Birmingham, to significantly increase diversity among the student population. A far higher proportion of those admitted thereafter came from low-income backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
One colleague — a former professor at the University of the West Indies — told me that I had “successfully blackened” the cohort of law students whom we admitted. Moreover, despite dire warnings from some of my more traditional colleagues that the new admissions policy would reduce the quality of the students admitted, grades actually went up very significantly, both in terms of inputs (i.e. the high school grades of the entering class) and outputs (the grades obtained by the students while they studied in law school).
For several years, I was a consultant to a law firm with one of the largest education law practices in the United Kingdom, and advised numerous schools, colleges, and universities. I was commissioned on three occasions by the Estonian government to carry out evaluations of law teaching at higher education institutions in Estonia, and co-wrote the United Kingdom’s original guidance for schools on the Human Rights Act of 1998.
Since moving to Stetson, I have published several more books. Law, Justice and Miscommunications: Essays in Applied Legal Philosophy (Vandeplas, 2011) is a collection of seven essays. The first essay is written by me, but the other six are written by students from my Jurisprudence seminar class. Product Liability: Cases, Commentary, and Conundra (Carolina Academic Press, 2012) was particularly well received, and led to my being asked by the American Bar Association to write a shorter book on the same topic for newly-qualified practitioners and practitioners new to products liability law. That book was published in 2015 as Products Liability Law (American Bar Association).
I have always had an interest in software, and I have lately been able to take advantage of that hobby in my professional work. In 2013, I created and edited the very first Webfestschrift to be dedicated to an American law professor, Shaking the World Gently: A Webfestschrift in Honor of Professor Robert Dale Bickel. Later that year, I designed and co-founded the Stetson Journal of Advocacy and the Law, the first online law review designed to be read online, which produced its first issue in 2014.
In 2016, I launched webby-books.com, which publishes law books as websites. I created the first Webby Book, Law of Torts, and am currently writing another on Remedies, which I hope to publish in 2018.
I continue to love teaching, and currently offer classes in Torts, Products Liability, Advanced Torts, Remedies, and Technology Issues in Law Practice Management. It would be nice to get back to teaching some Jurisprudence too, but there doesn’t seem to be room for that at the moment!