Description: This is an introductory course examining the
foundations of law in American society, historical and contemporary uses of
law, and the conflict between individual freedom and government power. We
will explore the nature of law and rules and the extent to which judges should
have discretion to bend the rules for the sake of justice; whether the law
should be used to enforce morality; and whether courts are an effective means
for implementing social change. Specific topics include the jury system, gun
control, police powers during a pandemic, rights of corporations, contracts,
and torts. We draw on a variety of sources including film and literature,
court cases, and historical and social science research.
Requirements: Grades will be based on: two exams (20 points
each), quizzes and short assignments (30 points), a moot court paper of 6-8
pages (20 points), and class participation (10 points), which will be based
on contributions to class discussion. Students are expected to come to class
prepared to discuss the reading listed for that class. For every unexcused
absence beyond 2, your grade will be reduced by 2 points. You should take
notes of all the readings, of lectures, and of class discussions. As an
incentive to take good notes, for the exams you will be permitted to use any
notes you authored, but you will not be permitted to have access to the
readings or to notes not authored by you. You should brief cases. A sample
brief is online.
The default grading scale is 94-100 (A), 90<94 (A-), 87<90 (B+),
84<87 (B), 80<84 (B-), 77<80 (C+), 74<77 (C), 70<74 (C-),
67<70 (D+), 64<67 (D), 61<64 (D-), <61 (F). I may utilize a curve
but only if doing so would yield a higher rather than a lower grade than what
the student would earn using the default scale.
Honor Code: Students agree to adhere to the honor code, see http://www.fau.edu/honors/academics/honor-code/.
If you have any doubts about what constitutes plagiarism or a violation of
the honor code, consult with the professor beforehand.
Office Hours: TBA, or phone (799-8670) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Office location is HC 104.
Reading: The following books have been ordered: Herman
Melville, Billy Budd; John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime; Adam
Winkler, We the Corporations; Gerald Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope.
Other readings are in Canvas. Be sure to bring to each class the reading
for that day's class as you will need to refer to it in class discussion.
Schedule: Specific topics and readings are listed in
Canvas. Each topic has its own Module with background information and links
to the reading, quizzes to help you understand the material, and discussion
boards. We will also have graded class debates. Be sure to check Canvas
I. Introduction: Types of
law, sources of law, researching the law
1/11. Introduction: Public vs Private law; reading the law; researching the
Rdg: Fountainebleau Hotel v. Forty-Five Twenty-Five, Inc.
II. Public Law
A. The U.S. Constitution
1/13. The U.S. legal system
and U.S. Constitution
Rdg: U.S. Constitution; Winkler, We the
Corporations, ch. 1
class, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
Pre-Heller: the ‘collectivist’ reading of the 2nd Amendment
Rdg: U.S. v. Miller (307 U.S. 174, 1939); Quilici v. Morton Grove (695 F. 2d 261,
1982); Silveira v. Lockyer (312 F. 3d 1052, 2003)
Video excerpt of Black Panthers on gun regulation, from
'Berkeley in the 60s'
1/25. The Supreme Court’s
about face: Heller, McDonald
Rdg: Sanford Levinson, "The Embarrassing
Second Amendment," 99 Yale L.J. 637-659 (1989), excerpts; District of
Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008); McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S.
1/27. The policy debate:
what is the effect of gun control on crime?
Rdg: John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime
For those interested: Brady
center: criticisms of Lott's research; Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, 'Carrying guns for protection:
results from the National Self-Defense Survey', Journal of Research in
Crime and Delinquency 35:2 (May 1998), available online; Gary
Wills, 'Spiking the Gun Myth', review of Michael Bellesiles,
Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, NYT
Review of Books (Sept. 10, 2000), available
online; and Robert Worth, "Historian's Prizewinning Book on Guns
is Embroiled in a Scandal," New York Times, Dec. 8, 2001 (on Bellesiles' book)
C. Police Powers
Inequality and the law
2/1. Caroline Light, Stand
Your Ground (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018)
2. Police powers during a pandemic (with moot court)
2/3 Rdg: Lochner v. New York
2/8 Rdg: West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937); Williams v.
Lee Optical; Comm v. Tewkesbury (1846); In re Goddard (1835); Tanner v.
Albion (1843); Hissem v. Guran
(1935); Beers v. Arkansas
2/15 Moot Court
3. Legal Moralism and paternalism
2/17: Rdg: World Bank Group, "Do Smokers
Know their Risks and bear their Costs?", ch. 3 of Curbing the
Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control, available online;
"NY Bans Transfats," Economist Nov.
25, 2006; "Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester" and
"Husband sentenced for sex with girl, 13"
2/22. Is there a moral or legal duty to help others?
Rdg: A. D. Woozley,
"A Duty to Rescue: Some Thoughts on Criminal Liability," Virginia
Law Review 69 (7):1273-1300 (Oct. 1983); State v. LaPlante, 521 N.W. 2d 448
For those interested: A.M. Rosenthal, Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty
Genovese Case, available electronically through the FAU library.
2/24. The case of Jeremy Strohmeyer
Rdg: Nora Zamichow,
"The Fractured Life of Jeremy" (on Jeremy Strohmeyer
and David Cash), L.A. Times, July 19, 1998; Michael Kelly, 'Expel Murdering
punk's apologist', Palm Beach Post, Sept. 19, 1998.
III. The philosophy of law: What is law?
How are laws different from other sorts of commands? Is discretion in
interpreting law desirable or dangerous? Is law autonomous from politics?
3/1. Theories of law
"Ethics, Morality and Law," in Hall, ed., Oxford Companion to American Law
(2002); Lawrence Lessig, Code,
ch. 7; Riggs
v. Palmer, 115 N.Y. 506 (1889). BRIEF THIS CASE. A
sample brief is online.
3/3. The Speluncean Explorers and the
nature of law
"The Case of the Speluncean Explorers," Harvard Law Review
62(4):616-45 (February, 1949), available through jstor.
3/8-3/10: No class
due to spring break
3/15 Discretion in the law:
Melville’s Billy Budd
Rdg: Melville, Billy Budd
3/17 Discretion in the law: should we make
exceptions to rules, or go beyond statutes to arrive at justice?
Rdg: People v. Davis (286 N.Y.S. 2d 396, 1967); Riggs
v. Palmer; Atwater v City of Lago, 532 U.S. 318 (2001), concerning custodial
arrests for minor traffic offenses
3/22 Who should have discretion--Juries?
The issue of jury nullification
Rdg: Paul Butler, "Racially Based Jury
Nullification: Black Power in the Criminal Justice System," 105 Yale
L.J. 677 (December, 1995), online via jstor; Andrew
D. Leipold, "The Dangers of Race-Based Jury
Nullification: A Response to Professor Butler," 44 UCLA L. Rev. 109 (October, 1996)
For those interested: Adam Liptak, "A state weighs allowing juries to
judge laws," New York Times, Sept. 22, 2002.
IV. Private Law
3/24 Mills v. Wyman, 3 Pick. 207 (1826);
Webb v. McGowin, 168 So. 196 (1936), Britton v.
Turner, 6 N.H. 481 (1834); Garcia v. von Micsky,
602 F.2d 51 (1979); McDevitt v. Stokes, 192 S.W. 681 (1917)
3/29 Jacob and Youngs, Inc.
v. Kent, 230 NY 239 (1921); Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. (350
F. 2d 445, 1965); and American Car Rental, Inc. v. Commissioner of
Consumer Protection (273 Conn. 296, 2005); Henningsen v. Bloomfield
Motors, Inc.(161 A.2d 69, 1960)
Troppi v. Scarf, 282 NYS 2d 858 (1967); Lange v.
Hoyt, 114 Conn 590 (1932)
4/7 Are juries equipped to resolve complex
Film: Twelve Angry Men (1957, dir. Lumet) (96 minutes).
Rdg: Adam Liptak, "Inviting TV into Jury Room
in a Capital Case," New York Times, Nov. 26, 2002
4/12 Rdg: Stephen J. Adler, The Jury:
Disorder in the Court, pp. 84-144
For those interested: Congressional Quarterly Researcher: The Jury System, online
VI. Law and social change
4/14 Is law an effective tool for social
Rdg: Gerald Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope, ch.
1-5 (pp. 9-169)
4/19 Law as an instrument of social change
Rdg: Rosenberg, pp. 304-314.
For those interested: Carl Bogus, Why Lawyers are Good for America ;
Thomas Burke, Lawyers, Lawsuits, and Legal Rights; Lawrence Friedman, Total
Justice; Philip K. Howard, The Death of Common Sense; Robert
Kagan, Adversarial Legalism; Walter Olson, The Litigation Explosion
VII. Corporations and the
on Accommodations: In compliance
with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), students who
require reasonable accommodations due to a disability to properly execute
coursework must register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and follow
all SAS procedures. SAS has offices across three of FAU’s campuses -- Boca
Raton, SU 131 (561-297-3880); in Davie, LA 131 (954-236-1222); in Jupiter and
all Northern Campuses, SR 111F (561-799-8585). Disability services are
available for students on all campuses. For more information, please visit
SAS website at www.fau.edu/sas/.
and Psychological Services (CAPS) Center: Life as a university student can be challenging
physically, mentally and emotionally. Students who find stress negatively
affecting their ability to achieve academic or personal goals may wish to
consider utilizing FAU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Center.
CAPS provides FAU students a range of services – individual counseling,
support meetings, and psychiatric services, to name a few – offered to help
improve and maintain emotional well-being. For more information, go to
of Academic Integrity Policy Statement: Students at Florida Atlantic University are expected to
maintain the highest ethical standards. Academic dishonesty is considered a
serious breach of these ethical standards, because it interferes with the
university mission to provide a high quality education in which no student
enjoys an unfair advantage over any other. Academic dishonesty is also
destructive of the university community, which is grounded in a system of
mutual trust and places high value on personal integrity and individual
responsibility. Harsh penalties are associated with academic dishonesty. For
more information, see University Regulation 4.001 and the WHC Academic Honor
Code at http://www.fau.edu/honors/academics/honor-code.php.
Etiquette Policy: In order to
enhance and maintain a productive atmosphere for education, personal
communication devices such as smartphones are to be disabled during class.
Policy: Students are expected to attend all of their scheduled
University classes and to satisfy all academic objectives as outlined by the
instructor. The effect of absences upon grades is determined by the
instructor, and the University reserves the right to deal at any time with
individual cases of non-attendance. Students are responsible for arranging to
make up work missed because of legitimate class absence, such as illness,
family emergencies, military obligation, court-imposed legal obligations or
participation in University-approved activities. Examples of
University-approved reasons for absences include participating on an athletic
or scholastic team, musical and theatrical performances and debate
activities. It is the student’s responsibility to give the instructor notice
prior to any anticipated absences and within a reasonable amount of time
after an unanticipated absence, ordinarily by the next scheduled class
meeting. Instructors must allow each student who is absent for a
University-approved reason the opportunity to make up work missed without any
reduction in the student’s final course grade as a direct result of such
Florida Atlantic University policies regarding incomplete grades
can be found in the University Catalog. Late work is subject to a grade
May 25, 2020