Journal widens law dialogue

When Opening Argument, a new Yale Law School opinion journal, hit the presses earlier this week, it became the latest addition to the substantial corpus of Law School publications, including such established titles as the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Law and Policy Review.

But unlike the other Yale Law School journals, which typically contain detailed scholarly reports on various legal topics, Opening Argument aims to provide a printed arena for a range of political views existing within the law school. In each issue, student writers respond to one of two featured questions like this month’s “Should diversity play a role in judicial appointments?”

Opening Argument co-founders Tara Helfman LAW ’06 and Justin Muzinich LAW ’07 came up with the idea for the journal while editing a Yale Journal of International Law article together last year when they realized there was no existing publication that created a forum for an exchange of political views as opposed to legal views.

“Yale Law School has never been simply a vocational school,” said Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh in a letter printed in Opening Argument’s first issue. “If our students are to engage in public service, they need to be well-informed, not just about the headlines, but also about the nuances of political argument.”

Muzinich said the magazine was also inspired in part by “The Wall,” the stone central corridor of the Law School, which students and faculty members cover in posts to announce meetings, clubs and job opportunities.

“Often the posts are very provocative political messages,” Muzinich said. “There is a lot of intellectual diversity at the Law School, but unless you provide an actual forum for it, it doesn’t always get the kind of debate that it might if you had a written forum.”

Muzinich said he believes that such a forum will foster “a really intelligent discussion of political views instead of sensationalistic headlines.”

Central to the mission of Opening Argument is the establishment of an effective debate over each question addressed in the journal. To allow for a variety of opinions to be expressed, the first issue contains eight articles in total, four per question. In addition to the question of judicial diversity, this issue also features responses to the question “Should YLS change its stance on military recruiting?”

“The point is to reflect themes that people are thinking about at the law school and to create a debate,” Muzinich said. “We’d love to expose anyone to both sides of an argument so they can make their own decisions about what to believe.”

To best address the topics that concern students at the Law School, Opening Argument’s editors have predetermined one topic for the journal’s next issue, but are asking interested writers to make suggestions for the second.

The Law School’s administration has been supportive of Opening Argument from the start, said Muzinich, who said that the administration was “by far the least bureaucratic organization I’ve ever worked with.” The journal’s writers have also been positive about it.

“It is a great contribution to the discourse of the school,” said Adam Lioz LAW ’07, whose article, “Race, Gender and Class Consciousness in Judicial Selection” appears in the current issue.

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