Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



When Professor Fred Rodell announced his first Goodbye to Law Reviews in 1936, he established the accepted wisdom for law review criticism. Rodell complained that law review literature had two serious defects-style and content. Subsequent criticism has been persistently harsh; the common theme is that "[the extraordinary proliferation of law reviews, most of them student edited and all but a handful very erratic in quality, has been harmful for the nature, evaluation, and accessibility of legal scholarship."

Having exhausted complaints on substance, critics uncovered another mischievous threat. They discovered that articles are Typhoid Marys of an insidious plague-footnotes. Second-rate style and pedantic substance are subverted further by cosmetic and trivial pursuits in footnoting.' What started as incidental and functional, footnoting now is thought to be a Frankenstein monster,rambling uncontrolled at the bottom of the page to serve "devious purposes."' A chorus of critics argue that footnotes have become a serious embarrassment to legal scholarship and one of the main culprits "in the death of decent writing in law reviews" by contributing more to "form than substance."One of the most vehement critics of footnotes is Judge Abner Mikva, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who bluntly calls footnotes "an abomination."