Most of our law professor readers will already have heard the horrible and tragic news about the death of Dan Markel, a professor at Florida State University School of Law who was shot and killed in his home yesterday morning. And most of our non-law-professor readers may not know who Dan was, or how bright a light he was among his generation of legal academics. The official Florida State release is here; a (for the moment) up-to-date story from the Tallahassee Democrat is here. Needless to say, this is still a developing story, and I’m loathe to speculate beyond what little is already known about the circumstances of Dan’s death. But I thought I’d take a moment instead to reflect a bit on what Dan meant to me–and, for reasons that will become clear, a blog post seemed the appropriate way to do it.
Although he was seven years my senior (and double that, again, wiser), Dan and I were academic contemporaries; we both went on the teaching market in the fall of 2004, and both ended up teaching in Florida (indeed, Dan visited at the University of Miami during my second year teaching there). Dan was also one of the founders of “PrawfsBlawg,” one of the early “group” law professor blogs, which was meant as much to provide an outlet for thoughtful junior professors looking to join various conversations as it was to help disseminate some of Dan’s own already impressive and formidable criminal law scholarship. PrawfsBlawg didn’t have–and never has had–a substantive theme behind its content; it was just meant to facilitate smart writing by smart folks. I was nevertheless lucky enough to be invited (and encouraged) by Dan to “guest post” during my very first semester as a law professor (Fall 2005), and even more privileged to be asked to come aboard, not long thereafter, as a “perma-Prawf.” And although I could go on and on about how Dan encouraged and facilitated my writing and my growth as a writer (snazzy article titles were a particular forte), I’ll just say that I wouldn’t be a blogger if it weren’t for Dan Markel–and for any number of reasons, that’s a debt that I can never repay.
The most important two things we legal academics can do are (1) arm our students with whatever tools they need to thrive as legal leaders; and (2) participate in, and seek to raise the level of, the front-line policy and legal debates in our respective academic subfields. Dan was endlessly dedicated not just to perfecting both sets of skills on his own, but to helping those around him–his FSU colleagues; his friends (of which there were too many to count); and the subsequent generations of “Prawfs” (ditto)–do the same.
Baruch dayan ha’emet.