Behind the Curtains of the Review Processes

So there is a list of best land use and environmental law review articles. It’s a complete mystery to me how it was all put together until last month when I was invited to be a reviewer for it. The second or third time I saw the list, I printed it out and wrote with a big Sharpie on it, “Congratulations, white men.” I posted it on the wall of my office. Anyone walking by could see what I wrote. Anyone who would walk into my office would see it. I think then and now that the list is total BS. The process of selection is completely flawed.

Land Use and Environment Law Review, 2021 ed.

Fundamentally Flawed Selection Process and Criteria for a Best Environmental and Land Use Article.

Invitation to be a Reviewer for Land Use & Environment Law Review

I am writing to invite you to become, or continue to be, a reviewer for the Land Use & Environment Law Review, Thomson Reuters/West Publishing’s peer-selected annual compendium of the most significant legal scholarship in land use and environmental law. Dan Tarlock co-edited the LUELR with David Callies for over a decade, and I took over the environmental law editor role from Dan seven years ago, with David continuing to serve as the land use law editor. David has stepped down this year and passed the land use side editorship on to Shelley Saxer.

Basically there is no turnover, because whoever gets the editorship hangs on to it.

Below I have identified ten articles I would appreciate you assessing. This group of ten articles comes from a total of 80 environmental/energy law articles meeting LUELR’s initial criteria that were posted in the Index of Legal Periodicals between October 31, 2020, and November 1, 2021. Groups of ten articles have been distributed to sets of colleagues like you. All the articles have links to the Hein library.

What are the initial criteria? Beats me.

What is the Index of Legal Periodicals? Beats me. I should probably know this and could go figure it out, but I don’t feel inclined to. Let’s also not forget that Thomson Reuters is evil. UCLA law studnts and others have been demanding that Thomson Reuters divest from ICE. So when I write an article about environmental law and divesting from ICE during this time period, my article obviously won’t get on the list, because for any number of reasons. The first is that my article on Climate Cages will be too narrow.

I hope you are willing to serve as a reviewer by evaluating these articles and identifying the three you believe, according to your personal criteria, represent the strongest qualities in legal scholarship. You may identify one runner-up. Your selections will remain confidential. You are not disqualified from nominating an article you authored or co-authored, or articles authored by colleagues at your institution.

I am not spending time hailing white men. The list of 10 articles that I received had only two women.

Please e-mail your selections to my assistant … by identifying the number and lead author name of each of your three selected articles (and optional runner-up). We’d very much appreciate receiving your selections by March 1, 2022 (I hope you won’t mind if I ping you before then as a reminder). Up to 15 articles receiving the highest number of nominations will move to the second level of peer review, to select up to five environmental law articles that will be republished in the 2022 LUELR.

There are a lot of environmental law academics that want to be on this list.

So the first piece of advice I received from another white male professor who was also junior to me in the academy when I went to one of the co-editor’s writing retreats was, “You want to write a piece so-and-so will like, but you also want to write a piece a law student will like.”

That was my complete “AHA” moment. I didn’t care what so-and-so thought of my paper. I fundamentally disagreed with all aspects of environmental law and regulation with him. I would continue to cite so-and-so, but I won’t do that anymore unless I need to. Because another thing that so-and-so said that still bothers me to my core was that one of my favorite environmental law professors, who is a Native American woman was not a good scholar, because I cited her a lot. She is now a law school dean. That was the moment I completely dismissed anything so-and-so had to say. I appreciate what all so-and-so has done for me, but so-and-so can so-and-so.

So I objected to being a reviewer. And it didn’t go that well, but it wasn’t all that bad. My rejection for being a reviewer.

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this effort, but I refuse to participate in these type of macroaggressions against female and minority scholars. Only two articles by women on the list of 10.  It’s sad and embarrassing. I cannot be part of a systemic effort that marginalizes those of us already at the bottom further. Instead of self-congratulating more white men, maybe there should be work done that actually works to redress these issues instead of ignoring them.

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Nadia Ahmad

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