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January|February 2005
Originalist Sin By Lincoln Caplan
Lex et Veritas By Harold Hongju Koh

Lex et Veritas

By Harold Hongju Koh

"THEORY WITHOUT PRACTICE is as lifeless as practice without theory is thoughtless." Each year, I tell my students that, as one of the principles that animates Yale Law School. It is also, in an important sense, the credo of serious journalists everywhere. Journalists, like lawyers, are committed to the search for lived truth, a search that concerns itself with reasons, causes, and consequences. And in recent years, the nexus between law and journalism has grown even tighter. As Linda Greenhouse, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, wrote in a 1996 essay for the Yale Law Journal: "In an era when the political system has ceded to the courts many of society's most difficult questions, it is sobering to acknowledge the extent to which the courts and the country depend on the press for the public understanding that is necessary for the health and, ultimately, the legitimacy of any institution in a democratic society."

Given this close connection, it is hardly surprising that Yale Law School has long fostered an exploration of the relationship between law and journalism. Alumnus Justice Potter Stewart is still remembered as perhaps the Supreme Court's most ardent advocate of the freedom of the press. In 1970, Professor Tom Emerson authored the landmark study of First Amendment protections of journalism in his path-breaking The System of Freedom of Expression. Later that decade, Professor Alexander Bickel successfully argued and won the Pentagon Papers case on behalf of The New York Times. Over a period of almost 30 years—17 of them with the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation—the school has enrolled over 120 talented mid-career journalists in a one-year program of intensive legal studies culminating in the Master of Studies in Law degree. Scores of graduates of the school have gone on to fill the daily airwaves, newspapers, and websites, including such well-known and diverse journalists as Jeff Greenfield, Linda Greenhouse, Ben Stein, Steven Brill, and Jeffrey Rosen. Scarcely a day now passes in which a Yale Law School professor does not publish an op-ed on the controversy du jour, and several graduates, as well as current professors Ian Ayres ( and Jack Balkin (, now lead the legal "blogocracy" with weblogs that are updated literally moment-to-moment.

Sterling Professor Emeritus Boris Bittker was standing firmly in this tradition when he proposed, a decade ago, that the law school develop a journal designed to appeal to the nonacademic law reader: the busy practicing lawyer, the judge, the corporate counsel. What we needed, he suggested, was a public interest magazine less directly focused on the affairs of the law school than our alumni magazine and less technical and scholarly than the traditional, heavily footnoted academic law journals. Building on Boris's vision, more than four years ago, Law School Dean Anthony Kronman formally launched Legal Affairs as a magazine at the intersection of law and life. The magazine, housed near the law school and edited by our Knight Senior Journalist Lincoln Caplan, has heretofore carried the tagline "A Magazine of Yale Law School" on each issue. The magazine has published award-winning articles and innovative analyses, and has featured the work of accomplished journalists, lawyers, judges, and scholars, as well as talented new authors, including current students and recent graduates of our school.

With this issue, Legal Affairs reaches maturity. After a start-up phase in which Yale Law School has been an active partner, the magazine is more than ready to stand on its own. The position of chair of the corporate board, held first by Dean Kronman and then myself, has now been assumed by one of our country's leading appellate advocates, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman.

We at the law school are proud of Legal Affairs' accomplishments and look forward to reading it in the future. Meanwhile, we are ready to expand the school's enduring commitment to journalism. To guide us in designing the future shape of Yale's law and journalism program, a distinguished group of journalists that includes Brill, Greenhouse, Marcia Chambers, and Strobe Talbott has agreed to join my dean's advisory board. One decision that we have already made is to begin seeking outstanding new journalist applicants for the Master of Studies in Law degree. Information about our new directions, and applications for that program, may be found on our website,

As an educational institution dedicated to interdisciplinary studies, Yale Law School will continue to explore—in both traditional and unexpected ways—the common intellectual space that law and journalism inhabit. Legal Affairs has explored that space since its launch, and in that ongoing journey, we wish it continued success.

Harold Hongju Koh is Dean of Yale Law School and Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law.

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