Integrating Humanities into Family Law and the Problem with Truths Universally Acknowledged

17 Feb 2012 02:55pm Carol Sanger 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

I spend a full month on marriage in Family Law, and I use a fair range of what I'll call "extrinsic evidence" from the humanities. Because there is so much one could use, I am fairly strict with myself about what I do use. It seems important that when we take the time to introduce new materials, it should not be just a matter of word association football ("this novel reminds me of this case"), but rather that the materials connect to larger themes around which the doctrinal topics are wrapped or from which legal rules emerge. In Family Law these themes include the relation between family and market structures; Family Law as a reflection of contemporary social values on race, gender, and everything else; constitutional limitations on the regulation of intimate relationships; and the politics of Family Law and law reform. Connection to these larger themes provides one way of sorting and sifting the wealth of material from which one might choose.

However, I want to suggest a different reason why I am willing to take time away from doctrine and case law to spend it in the humanities. My suggestion is this: The humanities expand the imagination so that students can understand lives that are not like their own. The lives presented in novels or recounted in interviews may not be like the lives of our students because of when (or sometimes where) the two sets of lives are lived. They may not be like their own because of cultural differences, or because of the sometimes inexplicable nature of preferences and the choices that people make with regard to intimate relationships. This imaginative reach toward understanding different lives, times, or preferences is important in a number of ways.

Role, Identity, and Lawyering: Empowering Professional Responsibility

17 Feb 2012 02:51pm Natasha Martin 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

The Professional Responsibility course has the potential to have the greatest impact on our students' futures in the profession. Paradoxically, however, it remains one of the most undervalued courses in most law school curricula. The complexity of teaching Professional Responsibility is well documented by scholars. Most teachers in this area, novices and veterans alike, acknowledge the challenge of teaching a course whose subject matter and application is so deeply personal for the students. This course remains challenging due in part to the competing goals of teaching students issue resolution using the law governing lawyers and fostering understanding of the normative values that underlie the regulations. Of course, I want my students to gain command of the standards that govern the legal profession. Reducing the course to a rules-only venture, however, excises much that remains vital to their futures as lawyers. I aim to bring harmony to the divergent roles of lawyers as fiduciaries for clients, officers of the court, and individuals with personal identities and interests.

Dick Wolf Goes to Law School: Integrating the Humanities into Courses on Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence

17 Feb 2012 02:48pm David Alan Sklansky 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

My assignment for this symposium is to discuss ways of integrating the humanities into the core law school courses on criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence-what you might call the Dick Wolf courses. In one respect the topic is trivial and almost meaningless. It is hard to come up with a sensible definition of the humanities that excludes much of what goes on all the time in a law school classroom: reading judicial decisions, trying to make sense of them, arguing about justice and fairness. We are a little in the position of Moliere's Bourgeois Gentleman, who discovered to his delight that he'd been speaking prose all his life without realizing it. There is another respect in which integrating the humanities into courses on criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence, while not trivial, is or should be uncontroversial. Precisely because the law addresses philosophical questions and responds to historical developments-and precisely because the law is itself an object of philosophical speculation and is itself a part of history-it is natural to take explicit note of philosophy and history in class. It is hard to teach criminal law or evidence law successfully without mentioning Jeremy Bentham. It is hard to teach the right to counsel properly without mentioning the Scottsboro Boys; hard to make Terry v. Ohio fully comprehensible without discussing the urban riots of the late 1960s and the Kerner Commission report; hard to do justice to the M'Naughten rule without at least touching on Daniel M'Naughten and the Chartists.

I am going to talk about integrating the humanities in a narrower sense: integrating the arts, and in particular literature and the performing arts. It's easier to do this in the Dick Wolf courses than in many other law school classes. Crime, policing, and trials are such staples of novels, plays, movies and television-even aside from the endlessly sprawling universe of Law & Order- that it is hard to think of much literature or dramatic art that doesn't touch, at least in passing, on criminal justice or trial procedure or both. Popular music, too, has a tendency to return again and again to issues of crime and punishment.

Incorporating Literary Methods and Texts in the Teaching of Tort Law

17 Feb 2012 02:36pm Zahr K. Said 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

Tort law is frequently taught in terms of economic concepts: efficiency, capture, cost distribution, risk allocation, and so on. Alternatively, or in parallel, a philosophical perspective may wend its way into the first-year tort curriculum through discussions of distributive and corrective justice. Literature, however, is comparatively under-investigated as an arena for tort pedagogy and for first-year courses in the legal curriculum generally. Where literature tends to appear in law school, it most frequently does so in the form of stand-alone law-and-literature classes, which usually focus heavily on literature. For three years, I taught such a course at the University of Virginia School of Law. In that class, I continually tried to teach literary texts in a way that juxtaposed them with live legal issues. Still, the emphasis was, by and large, on literature, rather than on law. By contrast, in teaching a first-year tort law course at the University of Washington School of Law this year, I have explicitly used literature to aid and amplify legal analysis. The emphasis has been on law, rather than on literature. Nonetheless, literary texts and methods helped my students investigate how the law conceives of, and expresses, duties and losses among parties. My approach sought both to incorporate and to move beyond what Jane Baron has called, in characterizing aspects of first-generation law-and- literature scholarship, the "humanist" and "narrative" schools. Instead, the course drew on several diverse strands of law-and-literature methodology and it incorporated literary texts and methods into discussions of case law and legal policy to produce analysis that is deeply interdisciplinary. Content and methodology, to the extent they can be satisfactorily decoupled, informed my teaching of Torts in separate ways. First, I incorporated a central literary text that accompanied more traditional legal materials. Second, I required students to engage in close reading and I helped them theorize the act of reading itself. By emphasizing the textually mediated nature of the cases-both as a function of common law's system of authority through analogy, and as a function of the casebook editors' choices-I hope to have made clear to students that this is a new type of reading they are doing in law school, and that they are learning to think in new ways. In growing acculturated to legal analysis, law students are learning not just a new language, but a new awareness of how and why they read the way they do.

Guilt, Greed, and Furniture: Using Mel Brooks’s The Twelve Chairs to Teach Dying Declarations

17 Feb 2012 02:35pm Lenora Ledwon 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, “Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum,” on January 5, 2012.

When I teach the dying declarations hearsay exception in my Evidence course, I always show the opening scene from Mel Brooks's darkly comedic film, The Twelve Chairs. A film clip is a particularly dense piece of storytelling, in that it presents story information in a visually and aurally rich manner (including such varied aspects as images, colors, tone, soundtracks, special effects, edits, montage, etc.). Yet, we are able to take in and process a whole series of nuanced and complex messages in a film clip in a relatively efficient manner. Simply put, we are good at "reading" visual stories from television and film. Further, showing the excerpt from The Twelve Chairs not only is fun, it's good learning pedagogy.

This short scene enhances class discussion in three principal ways. First, the scene serves as an engaging mini-review of the elements of the hearsay exception for dying declarations. Second, it serves as a springboard for the class to think critically and articulate some unspoken assumptions underpinning the rationale for the rule (the short scene raises issues about our assumptions governing family dynamics, gender, class, politics, and religion, among other matters) and consider the possibility of drafting a different (and perhaps better)rule. , Third, the nature of the example (a film clip, and a comedic one at that) surprises and delights the students who are used to the usually bleak and violent fact patterns in many evidence casebooks. Thus, their attention level is high and they are very engaged in the analysis. A more full discussion of each of these three aspects follows.

« PREVIOUS; 1   |   2

The California Law Review is the preeminent legal publication at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Founded in 1912, CLR publishes six times per year on a variety of engaging topics in legal scholarship.
The law review is edited and published entirely by students at Berkeley Law.