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Author of Famed Law Review Note Dies

William S. Stevens, a Pennsylvania lawyer who died last week at the age of 60, will forever be remembered for the anonymous law review note he published as a law student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. Published as an "Aside," "The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule" was a slightly tongue-in-cheek inquiry into whether the rule of baseball was shaped by the same influences that shaped the common law. 

The Infield Fly Rule is obviously not a core principle of baseball. Unlike the diamond itself or the concepts of "out" and "safe," the Infield Fly Rule is not necessary to the game. Without the Infield Fly Rule, baseball does not degenerate into bladderball the way the collective bargaining process degenerates into economic warfare when good faith is absent. It is a technical rule, a legislative response to actions that were previously permissible, though contrary to the spirit of the sport.

Stevens' obituary in The New York Times called the note "one of the most celebrated and imitated analyses in American legal history," and Wikipedia lists it as one of the most significant articles ever published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The note quickly achieved legal fame, the Times said, in part because nothing like it had appeared before in a major law review and in part because its reasoning was so elegant and concise.

After his publication of the note and graduation from law school, Stevens went on to practice with several law firms in Philadelphia. In 1990, he became an assistant director of the American Law Institute. He retired in September but had taken a one-year post this year as acting director of the Alaska Bar Association's CLE program. In his memory, the law review this week posted his famed note to the Web.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 15, 2008 at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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