Tag Archives: University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Prof. Pierce’s rendition of Over the Rainbow once again disappoints

Rainbow over a horse farmIn 1940 the 12th Academy Awards was hosted for the first time by Bob Hope.   He would go on to host 18 more times.   Gone With the Wind won Outstanding Production.   Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Academy Award.   And, composer, Harold Arlen, and lyricist E.Y. Harburg won Best Song for Over the Rainbow from the film, The Wizard of Oz.

Though Over the Rainbow was lauded by “the Academy” in 1940, and continues to hold its place as the number one song on the Songs of the Century list, and is ranked by the American Film Institute as the “greatest movie song of all time,” it was originally cut from the film because mature business man on a desk at the officeMGM execs thought it “slowed down the picture” and was ‘not for a little girl singing in a barnyard.’

Musicians, Arthur Freed (an uncredited associate producer of The Wizard of Oz) and Roger Edens (Judy Garland’s vocal coach and mentor) argued vehemently, and successfully to the know-nothing MGM execs that the song should stay.

Over the Rainbow is situated at the beginning of the film.   Dorothy, after being scolded by Auntie Em to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble” walks off … wondering aloud …

… some place where there isn’t any trouble ….  Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?   There must be.   It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train.   It’s far, far away.   Behind the moon, beyond the rain…”

… and off she sings into American musical history.

imagesK8YRAGSIOver the Rainbow has been covered by a variety of singers most notably by the painfully shy, and little-known Eva Cassidy whose sensitive rendition of the masterpiece is itself a masterpiece.   There is the much-acclaimed Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole’s version in which he takes great artistic liberties with the piece to great effect.images[2]

But, no one takes more liberties with Over the Rainbow than Prof. Richard J. Pierce, Jr., a critic of the Social Security disability process, who argues that Social Security should just do away with administrative law judges en route to turning more disabled people away.   His version … …

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that he’s heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams no disabled people exist really do come true

Someday he’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind him
Where judges melt like lemon drops
Away above the state house tops
That’s where you’ll find him

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly high over the rainbow.
Why can’t disabled folk just go bye bye?

Prof. Pierce testified before the House Ways and Means Committee asserting as a credential that he’s written more than 20 books, but his published bibliography mentions just eleven.  Let’s not quibble … eleven books is sufficiently impressive.   And perhaps his published bibliography is incomplete.

There are two reviews of Prof. Pierce’s books on Amazon.   The first review was of Administrative Law (Insights and Concepts) giving Prof. Pierce’s work 2 stars.  The review is titled, “Disappointing,” and said:

First let me say that I’m a big fan of the Concepts and Insights Series. I’m currently a 1L and have used them for both Contracts and Torts with excellent results. This book, however, simply doesn’t measure up.

This book sets out with the same aim as the other books in the series. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive summary of all the important cases and theories, but rather gives a broad outline of the major themes and discusses some of the important cases in order to illustrate those themes. This can’t replace the casebook, but can be a useful addition to it, especially if your professor isn’t good at fitting the various cases into a larger framework.

I’m rating this book so poorly for several reasons. In the first place there are tons of typos. Getting A Bad GradeNormally a typo here and there wouldn’t bother me, but they’re everywhere. If I turned something like this in to a professor I would fail. All the typos make the book less readable and cast doubt on the accuracy of the more substantive parts. This book was only published in 2008, so hopefully if they make another edition they can fix some of these issues.

Secondly, it is actually quite repetitive and poorly written/structured. This is not a criticism that should apply to a book meant to succinctly summarize a vast body of law. Most points seem to be repeated at least once and several seem to pop up in almost every chapter. Either this book should be shorter or some of that wasted space should be used to include points that were left out.

As far as the substance of this book, it does seem to give a decent overview of administrative law in a relatively clear (if poorly-written) way. With some serious editing this book could be as good as the others in the series.

The second review on Amazon was for the second edition of the same book.   The reviewer gave Prof. Pierce’s work 3 stars, and was titled “Lacking detail.”   It said,

While this is a useful introduction, it feels too concise to be useful as a study guide. The equivalent book from the Law in a Nutshell series feels much more substantial. This is one of the first Concepts and Insights books I have been really disappointed with.

There is a reputed disconnect between academia and the “real world.”   So that law The Professor White Boardprofessors who have never worked with a client or literally never seen the inside of a courtroom, might have some pretty pie-in-the-sky notions of people’s circumstances and … reality.   But there appears to be a particularly sizable disconnect between Prof. Pierce and the “real world” – even when the real world is itself academia.

An article appearing in a November 1985 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Richard J. Pierce, Jr., then Dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Law School, was “quitting in a budget hassle.”

Dean Pierce had been the dean for all of 19 months when he quit suddenly because the University wouldn’t, according to him, ‘give the school enough money.’  A top university official described the dean’s demands as “ridiculous.”  Dean Pierce revealed to the paper that he ‘has no job to which he can go when his resignation takes effect ….’   And university officials ‘haven’t decided who will head the law department until they select a permanent replacement.’

Apparently Dean Pierce’s 1985 rendition of Over the Rainbow in which he revealed his inability to appreciate the financial realities of others, did not fly at the University of Pittsburgh.   Like the first Amazon reviewer of Pierce’s book, the university described Pierce’s performance as “disappointing.”

Prof. Pierce remains disconnected and unable to appreciate the financial realities of the “real world” and of others, in this case the disabled people who the Social Security disability program is designed to assist.   Prof. Pierce believes that if you eliminate judges, eliminate any opportunity for a face-to-face encounter in which claimants can be questioned, and deny people without recourse, the problem is, as he has stated, “solved.”

This belief is the confused belief of an academician who does not work with disabled people, and who does not appear before administrative law judges ever – does not see the important work they do.

Ruby ShoesThis belief is the confused belief of a lackluster thinker who believes we can simply click our heels together to make the “problem” of disabled people and America’s aging demographic go away.

This belief is the confused belief of a man who might be befuddled at increased homelessness resulting from his proposals – a probable outcome he appears not to consider.

This belief is akin to MGM executives scrapping Over the Rainbow for whatever confused, misguided, out-of-touch beliefs they had too.

When The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy wonders “some place where there isn’t any trouble ….  Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?,” Prof. Pierce might do the same … do you suppose there is such a place, Toto for disabled people … where there isn’t any trouble?  

Well, yes, Prof. Pierce, I hope too that there is, but I can guarantee you it is not typically in the American workplace.