Don's Diary

May 17, 1996

TUESDAY. Last week at work before our departure to San Francisco to give a paper at "Picturing Justice: Images of Law and Lawyers in the Visual Media" is taken up with a mixture of teaching first-year students, advising anxious final-year students to plan ahead, attending assorted meetings and collating videos, and other materials necessary for a state of the art presentation. Vow as usual not to leave "state of the art presentations" until the last minute ever again, realise that we said this last time and the time before that.

WEDNESDAY. After a two-hour delay and an 11-hour flight we arrive in San Francisco and are picked up by Q, a final-year student working on the University of San Francisco Law Review. It was illuminating to have explained to us in detail how law reviews operate in the United States - they are often solely run by the students and to a large degree autonomous. Seeing the students making editorial decisions on the people that teach them certainly gave a new twist to the notion of peer reviewing.

The USF Law Review appears to be incredibly well organised by a dedicated and cheerful team; it occurs to us that perhaps this may have something to do with the serious CV kudos for the students involved, there is a distinct correlation between the students working on the Review and the jobs secured after graduation.

THURSDAY. A day recovering from our travels. Our hotel is located on the corner of Haight by Golden Gate Park, the 1960s' hippie village, and we spend the day accumulating more books in the area's excellent bookshops. Hints of hippiedom still apparent though signs indicate that hippies are not permitted to sleep in shop doorways; this itself would be a subject worthy of a comparative socio-legal study.

FRIDAY. We visit the Law Review to tidy up our paper. The university is a Jesuit school between Fulton and Geary with a laidback feel. We tell Mike, the Law Review editor, that we only need half an hour or so in preparation for tomorrow and he gracefully allows us to use his deputy's office.

Some four hours later we finish the paper and allow repossession of the room. With the temperatures in the 70s we find we are in desperate need of liquid refreshment. Thoughtfully the Law Review has sponsored a conference reception and we get the opportunity to meet some of the other participants and students before wandering aimlessly through Chinatown in search of some food.

Find out more about Bob Dole, notably that he often refers to himself in the third person. Debate using this concept in our presentation.

SATURDAY. The day of the conference. Our paper on cinematic portrayals of miscarriage of justice cases in the United Kingdom is ready to be reproduced when we find that the one copy has been picked up by one of the delegates, who values it so highly she/he ignores the pleas for its return.

With a degree of pride we whip out the disk and offer to print another copy - just three hours before we give our paper. However, the appearance of a variety of unexplained computer codes means that to print out the paper again actually takes the best part of two hours and the use of four computers. With one hour to go we check the video player we had ordered only to find that the UK-compatible one has not arrived. Mike comes to the rescue and sends out for US copies of the films from the local video store. After all the obstacles the paper goes surprisingly well and we receive much positive feedback. The evening promises a dinner and keynote address by Gerald Uelman, dean of Santa Clara Law School and member of O. J. Simpson's defence team, who provides a frank and fascinating "no holds barred" account of a number of trials of the century, centring of course on the O. J. case.

It only takes five minutes before an unabashed guest asks the inevitable "Did he do it?". Without hesitation Gerald launches into a passionate and persuasive defence of his client. After dinner we retire to a series of Irish bars before ending up in a bar that is totally red and inspiringly called The Red Room.

SUNDAY. Our last day in San Francisco is spent furthering the cause of popular culture. We set off for Alcatraz but make do with a photo as the queues even at this time of the year are phenomenal. The evening is taken up with a trip to the Fillmore, a scene of innumerable pop odysseys by luminaries such as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, to see Echobelly . . . a UK indiepop band. The gig goes down a storm with the US crowd and includes the lead singer throwing the bassist into the crowd. We chill out afterwards in yet another Irish bar discussing the merits of Andy Cole.

MONDAY. The trip home. Taxi driver seems nonplussed when we ask him if he knows the way to San Jose but provides us with an excellent account of all the recent earthquakes; he seems to relish the prospect of the big one but advises us to stay indoors when it arrives. We check in and await jet lag.

Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn are directors of the Centre for the Study of Law, Society and Popular Culture, University of Westminster.

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