19 December 2003

I think I'll leave the detainees issues to others from here on. My biting rejoinders, based on the fact that most of the commentators don't know what the [choose favorite expletive here] they're talking about in intelligence gathering—including, sad to say, the DOJ's representatives—would fall inside my NDA. So my silence is enforced by the government. The irony is a bit much.

Sometimes, the publishing industry has some really interesting excuses for its breaches of contract. Last year, for example, Chodos (out of the Ninth Circuit) criticized West Publishing—the 800–lb gorilla of legal publishing—for breaching a contract to publish "a treatise on the intriguing subject of the law of fiduciary duty." The court found that West's decision not to publish the book, even though the manuscript was completely conforming to the quality expectations of the parties and was timely delivered, was an improper breach of contract.

After Chodos had spent a number of years fulfilling his part of the bargain and had submitted a completed manuscript,… the West Publishing Company[] came to a contrary conclusion. It declined to publish the treatise, citing solely sales and marketing reasons.… The district court held that under the terms of the contract West’s decision not to publish was within its discretion, and granted summary judgment in West’s favor. Chodos appeals, and we reverse.

Slip op. at 1.

West has gotten into the news at the opposite end of the country for another refusal to publish, this time in a much more tangled case concerning a "trial consultant" database. Regardless of my opinion of "trial consultants"—in my experience and opinion, they are largely an attempt to subvert the jury process by a side with a weaker case and vastly greater resources than the opposition, and therefore border on improper attempts to influence an actual seated jury—the publishing contract as described seems clear enough. West's decision to back out seems to have been influenced by "changing market conditions" in a fashion disturbingly reminiscent of Chodos.

It's bad enough that the publishing industry often treats contracts to publish manuscripts that have not yet been completed as of the contract date with supercilious disdain (often arising to bad faith in exercise of "discretionary" functions) once disputes arise. The delicious irony that a monopolistic legal publisher has been called to account for the same practices just sort of makes my day. In the same sense as Clint's.