Indiana Tech Law bigwig and OTLSS favorite andre douglas pond cummings recently published a 20-page article entitled Richard Delgado and Ice Cube: Brothers in Arms in a University of Minnesota Law School publication called Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice.
What, in cummings’s expert opinion, is the armed and brotherly connection (or, intersection, to use fashionable jargon) between law professor Richard Delgado and Ice Cube? Legal scholarship, of course. According to cummings, both Ice Cube and Professor Delgado use storytelling to decry injustice, a point that cummings makes again and again in slightly different words throughout his law review article, like a school kid padding a term paper. (See Section D) My guess is that cummings’s purpose in writing this article, besides the obvious imperative of buttering up a far better-known and more respected fellow lawprof, was to portray his own scholarly domain of "Hip Hop and the Law" as an extension of the critical theory and narrativity approaches associated with Delgado.
a. andre douglas pond cummings
andre douglas pond cummings’s very brief career as a practicing lawyer was spent as an associate in a corporate law firm doing mergers and acquisitions work– not, say, in legal aid or public defense. However, after transitioning to legal academia, cummings found his voice (or a cynic might say crafted his persona) as a radical exponent of social justice and scourge of all things capitalized, especially his own many names. cummings taught at the University of West Virginia School of Law for a decade before moving on to notorious pseudo-law school Indiana Tech, where he holds the title Vice Dean. Much of cummings’s "scholarship" is in the areas of "Hip Hop and the Law" and Sports Law, practice fields not notably in demand in Fort Wayne, Indiana. According to Indiana Tech’s 990, cummings was paid $204,445 in fiscal 2013.
In pursuit of his scholarly calling, cummings has traveled to conclaves in such locales as Lugano, Switzerland (where he gave a presentation on "Pop Culture and the Law"), Amelia Island, Hilton Head, and Palm Beach. While at West Virginia U., he even generously sacrificed his summers from 2005 to 2013 inclusive to play chaperone to law students for their study abroad program on "Law, Politics, and Culture," in Rio de Janeiro.
B. Richard Delgado
Richard Delgado became a lawprof directly out of law school, "skipping the usual period of practice or clerking." However unversed in the actual practice of law, Delgado has achieved the seemingly impossible within legal academia by making legal scholarship even more pretentious and ridiculous than it had been before. Delgado has published something like 20 law review articles framed around imaginary intellectual bull sessions between a good-hearted but aging and wishy-washy law professor and the professor’s favorite LLM student, the bold young firebrand and law professor wannabe Rodrigo Crenshaw, whose radical analysis of society and race has the professor captivated. See e.g. Richard Delgado, Rodrigo’s Eleventh Chronicle: Empathy and False Empathy, 84 Cal. L. Rev. 61 (1996). In a nicely self-aggrandizing touch, Rodrigo sometimes alludes to the importance of Richard Delgado’s work.
Delgado believes, as do his fictional characters, in the progressive value of "narrative" legal scholarship. See Richard Delgado, Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative, 87 Mich. L. Rev. 2411, 2441 (1989) ("Legal storytelling is an engine built to hurl rocks over walls of social complacency that obscure the view out from the citadel. But the rocks all have messages tied to them that the defenders cannot help but read"). Sadly, the impact of oppositionist narrative may be diminished when an author, however prolific, is a lousy writer and an unimaginative storyteller. In this regard, I recommend the following critique of Delgado’s Rodrigo masterpieces as well as Delgado’s overall "patronizing, condescending, elitist, egocentric narrative tone":
Professor Delgado is married to Jean Stefancic, a law professor who holds neither a JD nor a Ph.D. Much of Stefancic’s scholarship is co-authored with Delgado. Delgado and spouse have law professored together at the University of Pittsburgh, Seattle University, and currently, the University of Alabama. Without having read every one of the Rodrigo articles– which I doubt anybody has ever done– I am willing to bet that spousal hiring in academia is not among the elitist privileges that righteous Rodrigo cares to check.
While on the faculty of Seattle Law, Delgado starred in a promotional video for the school (along with a silent Stefancic) and stated "As society gets more diverse we need legal services of all kinds. . . . Lawyers who are prepared to perform legal services for the poor are in demand." (Video at 0:10-0:28) He then specified "writing wills for Indians on Indian reservations" as one of three areas of legal employment opportunity, the others being immigration and poverty law. (Video at 0:32-0:37) Seattle Law’s 9 to 10-month-out full-time legal employment rate has ranged between 37 and 45% over the past four years, so it seems that a lot of young Seattle Law grads have somehow overlooked Delgado’s brilliant career advice to do estates planning for the very poor.
C. Ice Cube
Ice Cube is a hip hop musician, screenwriter, and film producer. As a member of the ’90s group NWA, he was the lyricist for half of the songs on the controversial album "Straight Outta Compton." Ice Cube is more successful, and a better writer, than either Delgado or andre douglas pond cummings, even though he has never attended law school, taught at one, published a narrative law review article in the University of Minnesota Journal of Law and Inequality or elsewhere, or starred in a promotional vid designed to hustle naive kids into enrolling in a massively overpriced degree program at a crappy school.
D. Representative Quotes from cummings's Article, or Selections from 20 pages and 128 Footnotes of Repetition, Radical Posturing, Rhetorical Self-Indulgence, Apple Polishing, and Cultural Appropriation
- "When Professor Delgado published The Imperial Scholar, its impact was a literary shot across the bow of the traditional legal academy in its aggressive repudiation of entrenched White male civil rights legal scholarship. Like a hand grenade launched into the upper reaches of an ivory tower, Delgado authored a blistering critique that condemned famed civil rights scholars for their own racism and failure to garner, appreciate, or represent the views of the very oppressed minority groups on whose behalf these scholars purported to advocate." andre douglas pond cummings, Richard Delgado and Ice Cube: Brothers in Arms, 33 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice 321, 332 (2015).
- "From the movement’s inception, Critical Race theorists championed storytelling and narrative as valuable empirical proof of reality and the human experience, while rejecting traditional forms of legal studies, pedagogy, and various forms of civil rights leadership. Similarly, hip-hop, at its root, is narrative in form; the best, most recognizable hip-hop artists use storytelling as their most fundamental communicative method." Id. at 324.
- "[M]any CRT pioneers employed counterstories, parables, chronicles, and anecdotes aimed at revealing the contingency, cruelty, and self-serving nature of majoritarian rule. Similarly, hip-hop revolves around storytelling." Id. at 326.
- "The assault on the rear flanks [of the status quo] was the clarion call to every scholar of color and emerging outsider scholar and lawyer to a new and different conceptualization by which legal scholarship could be presented and legal practice conducted." Id. at 334.
- "Ice Cube, in the same narrative format championed by Richard Delgado, spun tales and stories in his rhymes." Id. at 338.
- "Professor Delgado and N.W.A./Ice Cube both expose and decry racism, inequality, and oppression with passion and explosiveness through deeply personal narrative." Id. at 339
- "Both Delgado and N.W.A. identify "the cure" to their detailed experiential ills as furious storytelling—Delgado in A Plea for Narrative and N.W.A. in Fuck tha Police and Gangsta Gangsta." Id.
- "Through narrative storytelling and funky bass lines, CRT and hip-hop seek to educate, inspire, and motivate a generation." Id. at 340.
- "When Professor Delgado’s influence is compared to that of Ice Cube, the hip-hop generation will understand the depth of this homage." Id. at 341.
One cannot help noticing cummings’s fiery rhetoric, which includes images of military assaults by scholarly insurgents armed with explosive outsider narrative grenades. Somehow, though, I suspect that entrenched systems of oppression will withstand the onslaught of cummings's lousy writing. Who outside the academy really cares whether law reviews feature law professors’ navel-gazing slop alongside their dull as dishwater doctrinal exegeses? Both formats of legal scholarship go overwhelmingly unread and uncited by courts and practitioners. No, andre douglas pond cummings and friends are not freedom fighters attacking the fortress of privilege and exploitation. Rather, they are pampered princes and princesses of the realm, initiating pillow fights within the luxurious palace boudoirs.
Though I share some of the political commitments of the CRT authors, I am skeptical of lawprofs who propose giving so-called counterstories a central place in legal scholarship or in legal writing. The allegedly liberatory function of storytelling encounters the following obstacle: anybody can draw a dubious analogy, emote, or spin a tale of woe for their own purposes, including, say, xenophobic billionaire presidential candidates, corporate public relations specialists, religious fundamentalists, avowed bigots, and glib scammers of various sorts. With narrative projectiles flying in all directions, it might be unwise to discount the truth-seeking function of refutable or impeachable evidence, logical analysis, and reasonable inference-- which, by the way, can lead to far more radical and devastating conclusions than song lyrics or personal reflections, even those that purportedly offer an outsider perspective. Plus, are the marginalized and oppressed really so tongue-tied that they need six-figure salaried law professors to represent their experiences via anecdote or fiction?
You know, the outsider narratives presented in the scamblogs do not purport to be scholarship, and scamblog authors and commentators do not require six-figure salaries, five-figure summer stipends, or conferences in luxury resorts to present compelling personal stories or bleakly hilarious admonitions to illustrate the growing body of statistical info about the lack of job opportunities in the legal sector. If the crisis in legal education is ever to resolve, it will not be because andre douglas pond cummings likes to spout hip hop lyrics in his law school classes and alleged scholarship while collecting $200,000/ yr. from his ridiculous unaccredited startup law school. It will be because transparency and scamblogging assist prospective law students and their influencers in identifying and avoiding a monstrous scam.