Law Sagas Seminar
J.D. Seminar 1141
| 3 credit hours
Starting with personal injury litigation in the 1970s, nonfiction books chronicling specific cases and episodes of complex litigation have increasingly targeted the "trade" audience (as opposed to a primarily academic one). This genre has expanded beyond the boundaries of personal injury litigation, even beyond mass tort actions. Today, all sorts of legal developments become the subject of "law sagas", detailed narratives showing how a legal situation - a settlement, a legislative package, a constitutional amendment, even a career in law - unfolded in its particular context. This seminar, Law Sagas, addresses the broadened scope of a literature that originally focused on more traditional tort litigation (that narrow literature was covered in Tort Sagas, a seminar previously offered at the Law Center.)
Examples of law sagas include:
• Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice;
• Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention; and
• What Is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of September 11th.
Other recently published law sagas focus on a historical legal episode or individual. Examples include:
• Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi;
• The Trial of Susan B. Anthony: An Illegal Vote, a Courtroom Conviction and a Step Towards Women’s Suffrage; and
• John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court.
A single event or historical development can spawn multiple law sagas. One example is the effort to legislate and ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. A few law sagas on the subject:
• There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America;
• Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America.
Law sagas about the same event offer different perspectives and varying information, illustrating the significance of how legal narratives are framed.
Some biographies and memoirs qualify as law sagas, including books as otherwise different as Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones and William Blackstone: Law and Letters in the Eighteenth Century. Finally, some professional work product from lawyers approximates the law saga genre, as does “The Freeh Report”, formally entitled Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of The Pennsylvania State University Related to Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Gerald A. Sandusky.
Law Sagas will cover most or all of the above referenced works, calling for close reading and student-led discussion of this literature. For paper assignments, students will have the choice of (1) reading and appraising a published law saga (other than those covered in the course) of his or her choosing (subject to professor’s approval), setting it in the context of the genre as a whole and giving particular attention to how well or poorly the book conveys legally significant information to its audience or (2) writing a short, original law saga by examining a case or legal development not previously put in broader context and using the techniques demonstrated in the seminar readings to illuminate the case or legal development. Time permitting, students should expect to make presentations to their classmates in which presenters will introduce their classmates to their preliminary ideas (based on paper outlines or drafts) and classmates will provide suggestions for improvement.
This seminar fulfills the WR requirement.
||Room / Days / From-To
(CRN #: 25011)
||Feldman, Heidi L.