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July 20, 2014

In Memoriam: Dan Markel (1972-2014)

Those inside and outside the legal academy are still coming to terms with the sudden and tragic loss of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, who was shot and killed at his Tallahassee home on Friday.  Dan touched the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues.  I was fortunate to know him since law school, and wanted to share some (admittedly scattered) memories of a friend lost too soon.

Even as a 1L, when most of us felt uncertain and trembling about our career decisions (or even just making it through the next class), Dan carried a certain unusual confidence.  In criminal law, he argued in favor of sending people to “virtue schools.”  He lugged his old Macintosh laptop to all classes, dragging the plug carefully across the floor behind his classmates’ chairs.  On Saturday afternoons after synagogue, he was known to offer friends a mean vegetarian chopped liver.  He was a character, and a sincere one.

I lost daily contact with Dan after we graduated in 2000, but he resurfaced in my consciousness one day in 2005, when he launched Prawfsblawg.  I was in private practice and enjoying it, but reading the academic posts by Dan and his friends added a powerful new dimension to the legal issues I was contemplating.  I wanted to be part of it.  An in 2009, when I finally decided to break into the legal academy, Dan warmly and cheerfully facilitated my introduction to colleagues far and wide.  He reviewed my early scholarship.  Even though I wrote in civil procedure and he in criminal law, he connected me to the right people almost effortlessly.  Later, after I joined the New England Law faculty, he encouraged me to guest blog at Prawfs, which I have done and enjoyed on more than one occasion.  

It is remarkable that someone would do so much to help an old classmate who had been out of sight and out of mind for almost a decade.  But that was just Dan being Dan.  The outpouring of grief at his loss on Facebook and Prawfsblawg is a testament to how many lives he touched.  He was taken too young, and we will miss him greatly.  Baruch Dayan Emet.

May 15, 2014

Media and Transitional Justice: A Complex, Understudied Relationship

I first became interested in the role of media in transitional justice settings in 2009, while directing a monitoring project of the human rights trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.  In the course of the project, the local press coverage of the trial drew my attention, with its explosive and provocative headlines often focused less on the proceedings of the trial as it was on scandal and speculation about the defendant and the victims.

I wondered how public consumption of these accounts contributed to the overall success (or not) of Peru’s transitional justice project. In my scholarly pursuit of thinking through this question, I was amazed to discover that few transitional justice scholars had examined it. Moreover, few countries have consciously considered the role of the media in the design of their transitional justice strategies.

How did we miss this central question? I think, in part, because assumptions about journalism and how it functions have insulated it from academic or practitioner scrutiny. For example, it is assumed that the media will automatically perform in a way consistent with the ‘canons’ of the journalistic profession and, moreover, that traditional peace-time approaches to journalism are the best suited for transitioning societies.

However, my observations compel me to take the stand that we need to question these assumptions, and for that reason I welcome ICTJ’s online debate.

Lisa Laplante

Professor Laplante directs New England Law's Center for International Law and Policy.  Her blog post is part of an online debate on “Should the Media Actively Support Transitional Justice Efforts?”  Her complete essay and those of other debaters are available on the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) website.