POSC 484, Seminar


Dear Students,

Due to Snowmageddon, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to our syllabus.  In essence, I have pushed some topics forward while compressing others.  Major changes include 1) no paper due on February 16 as we try to play catch up and 2) the compression of considerations of race and ethnicity under the topic of “Identity.”  Since you have one less paper and lots of time indoors this weekend, you may want to be reading ahead, noting, in particular, certain weeks that require a lot of reading and listening – special heads up for February 23, March 23, and April 13. 


February 16:

Continue Discussion of Law & Justice

The Legal Profession

Review readings from February 2 and 9

No Paper Due 


February 23:

Civil Law & Society: General Considerations


1. Harr, A Civil Action.

2. Cates & McIntosh, chapter 4, pp.1-33; 47-58

3. Friedman, pp. 222-225; 519-523

      Also, to get some feel for the competing (indeed, diametrically opposed) sides to the issue of civil justice (tort) reform, access and peruse the following:

3. Stuart Taylor, “Civil Wars,” Newsweek, 15 December 2003 (this article may be accessed using LEXIS/NEXIS). 

4. Public Citizen, “Newsweek ‘Civil War’ Cover Story Presents One Sided Battle,” www.citizen.org/documents/Newsweek_Response.pdf

And visit the following two websites:

5. American Association for Justice (Trial Lawyers), http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/2011.htm and http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/3618.htm

6. American Tort Reform Association, http://www.atra.org/issues/index.php?issue=7341 and  http://www.atra.org/wrap/files.cgi/7963_howtortreform.html and http://www.atra.org/reports/hellholes/


PAPER 3: Several times every year the press runs stories about so-called “frivolous” lawsuits, brought by apparently absurd or avaricious plaintiffs, and resulting in seemingly exorbitant jury awards.  Thus, we all are familiar with stories like that of the “McDonald’s Coffee Lady,” the man  who successfully sued the New York City subway system after falling on the tracks in a drunken stupor, and the old mousketeer who tried to sue Disneyland when her grandchildren saw Mickey take his head off.  Such stories, widely publicized, tend to produce outrage among the public and its politicians.  As a result, many states have enacted tort reform measures, limiting damages awards and punishing “frivolous” plaintiffs.  Congress and the White House have gotten into the act, too.  Recently, Congress passed and the President signed the Class Action Fairness Act, which limits the ability of plaintiffs to bring suit in state courts.  Who do you think would benefit most from reforming the civil justice system (i.e., from tort reform efforts)?  Why?  Who would be harmed most?  Why?  And, what might have happened to the folks of Woburn, MA if such reforms had been in place? In other words, is reform of the civil justice system a good or bad idea?  Why?


March 2:

Criminal Law and Society: General Considerations


1.Friedman, 207-222; 434-462; 567-575

2. Cates & McIntosh, chapter 4, pp. 33-47

3. Lynch, “The Case Against Plea Bargaining”  www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv26n3/v26n3-7.pdf  

4. Sandefur, “The Case Plea Bargaining.” www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv26n3/v26n3-8.pdf


PAPER 4: Over the past 2 decades, Americans have witnessed a number of high profile, often lurid criminal trials.  Of course, the O.J. Simpson trial is forever etched in our national psyche.  So too, we’ve watched intently the trials of Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant, the Washington area snipers, Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski, the Menendez brothers, Justin Volpe, Stacy Koon, Zacarias Moussaoui, several members of the Genovese crime family, etc.  In the coming months, the nation will presumably witness the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy.  Massive media coverage of such events has led numerous commentators to rejoice over the fact that everyday Americans are becoming more and more savvy about the criminal justice process.  But are we?  Do these high profile trials tell us much about the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system?  Indeed, are trials (much less celebrity trials) even the norm?  If not, what is?  And what are the consequences of the normal routine of criminal justice?


NOTE: During the second half of class I will review with each of you individually your news story idea. 


March 9:

Law, Relationships, and Early Childhood


1.      Cates & McIntosh, Chpts. 6 & 7

2.      Saul, “Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/us/13surrogacy.html

3.      Padawer, “Who Knew I was not the Father?” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/us/13surrogacy.html

4.      Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, CV 09 2292, U.S. Dist. Ct. for the No. Dist. Of CA, http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/2009-05-22_Filed_Complaint.pdf

5.      McKee, “Olson, Boies Unite to Fight Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban in Federal Court,” http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202431031183


PAPER 5: The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the “privacy right encompasses and protects the personal intimacies of the home, the family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, and child rearing” (Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton 413 U.S. 49, 66 [1973].  See also, for example, Troxel v. Granville 530 U.S. 57 [2000]; Washington v. Glucksberg 521 U.S. 702 [1997]; Bowers v. Hardwick 478 U.S. 186 [1986]; Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 [1973]; and Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 [1965]).  Government and laws, in other words, should intrude very little, if at all, in our intimate and familial relationships.  Based on the readings, how would you assess law’s involvement in these areas?  Is there enough law, not enough law, or too much law here?

March 16: Yay Spring!!!!

March 23:

Law, Self & Identity:


1. Cates & McIntosh, Chpt. 8

2. Friedman, pp. 186-88; 327-28; 523-534;


3. Healy, “File Sharing or Stealing?” http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/web/la-oew-healey18feb18,0,7696645.story

4. EFF, “RIAA v. The People.” http://www.eff.org/wp/riaa-v-people-years-later

5. Bono, “Ten for the Next Ten.” (read section on Intellectual Property Developers) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/opinion/03bono.html?pagewanted=1

6. RIAA, “Piracy Online.” http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy_details_online

7. Statement of Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 108th Congress, 1st Session, September 9, 2003, http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat090903.html
8. Via Lexis, access MGM v. Grokster,
545 U.S. 913 (2005)


10. Bell, “SALVATION FOR ALL: THE ULTIMATE CIVIL RIGHTS STRATEGY,” access at: http://pages.towson.edu/cates/Law%20and%20the%20Web%20of%20Society/ 

11. The Sentencing Project, “Manual for Reducing Racial Disparity,” http://www.sentencingproject.org/clearinghouse/

12. Lee, review briefly


Paper 6: Our identities are made up of our physical, emotional, and intellectual selves.  One of the thorniest legal issues to arise over the past decade is that of ownership of intellectual property.  College students, in particular, have been at the leading edge of one manifestation of this debate, the free sharing and downloading of music and video from the Internet.  Strong arguments have been made for and against such activity, with powerful recording interests currently winning the debate in courts and legislatures.  Do you find the pro or con arguments more convincing?  Or is there some middle ground resolution to this problem other than expensive commercial downloads?


March 30:

Law & the End of Life


1. Cates & McIntosh, Chpt. 9

2. Washington v. Gluckberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997); Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S.

79 (1997); Gonzalez v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006).  and Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).  For each case, read all opinions (majority, concurrences, and dissents).  (All of these cases may be accessed via LEXIS, Cornell, or Findlaw).

3. Oregon “Death with Dignity” visit the following site: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/faqs.shtml

4. “Montana 3rd State to Allow Assisted Suicide, Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/01/montana-3rd-state-to-allow-assisted-suicide/


PAPER 7: The Declaration of Independence informs us that among our “unalienable Rights”are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Question: Do we have the right to Death?  Explain.     


April 6:  

Law and Non-Humans: Do (and Should) Animals Have Legal Rights?


1. Gary L. Francione, “Animals, Property And Legal Welfarism: ‘Unnecessary’ Suffering And The ‘Humane’ Treatment of Animals,” 46 Rutgers Law Review 721 (1994).  (Access through Lexis) You should read all six sections of this article (I. Introduction,  II."Necessary Suffering": Three Examples, III."Unnecessary" Cruelty: The "Balance" of Unprotected Animal Interests and Human Property Rights in Animals, IV. The Maximization of Animal Wealth, V. Animals as Property: Anti-Cruelty Statutes, and VI.Conclusion).

2. Read some of the “Issues” at Animal Legal Defense Fund. http://www.aldf.org/

3. Listen to the following program (it will take about 50 minutes): “For the Prevention of Cruelty,” The Diane Rehm Show.  WAMU.  July 24, 2006, 11AM.  http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/06/07/24.php#11394

4.  “Redefining a Jury of their Peers,” NYT.  Access through LEXIS.  Go to “NEWS.”  Then, “GENERAL NEWS.”  Keyword: Redefining a Jury of their Peers.  Source: Major Newspapers, Date - From: 1999 to 1999.


PAPER 8: Imagine for this paper that you are a typical American college student (this should not be a stretch).  Imagine further, however, that during your babyhood 20 years ago your parents procured for your companionship a stray kitten of mixed breed from the local pound.  You and the aging Fluffy have now been together for two decades.  You know one another inside out, can “talk” with great ease, are able to comfort each other in times of stress, and generally bring great joy to one another.  Unquestionably, Fluffy is a creature of enormous intelligence and emotional warmth and, aside from your parents, siblings, and significant other, you love her more than anyone else in the world.  Then, something awful happens.  One day, while sunning herself on your deck, a group of neighborhood teenagers approaches Fluffy with baseball bats, and, “just for the fun of it,” bludgeon her to death. You, of course, call the police who you know could arrest the offenders under the state’s animal cruelty statute.  But, you are doubly horrified to find out that the murderers will only be prosecuted for a misdemeanor – this despite the premeditated brutality of their act!  Outraged, you decide to sue them under civil law.  Naturally, you must do a bit of research.  Generally speaking, what is the legal status of animals?  Do they have legal rights?  If yes, what are those rights?  If not, why not?  Given Fluffy’s legal status, what could you expect to gain in compensation for her death?  Finally, what do you think of the law as it currently applies to animals?


April 13:

Domestic Law/Foreign Threats


Access the following articles through LEXIS or the relevant newspapers:

1. Priest, Dana and R. Jeffrey Smith, “Memo Offered Justification for Use of Torture,” The Washington Post, June 8, 2004.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23373-2004Jun7.html

2. Priest, Dana, “CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons,” The Washington Post, November 2, 2005  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/01/AR2005110101644.html

3. Risen, James and Eric Lichtblau, Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers without Courts,” The New York Times, December 16, 2005  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/politics/16program.html

4. Risen, James and Eric Lichtblau, “Data Sifted In Secret by U.S. To Block Terror,” The New York Times, June 23, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/23/washington/23intel.html

5. Solomon and Johnson, “FBI broke law for years in phone record searches.”  The Washinton Post, January 19, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/18/AR2010011803982.html

6. Greenhouse, “Justices, 5-4, Back Detainee Appeals For Guantanamo.”   The New York Times, June 13, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/washington/13scotus.html

Savage, “Plan to Move Detainees Faces New Delay,”  The New York Times, December 22, 2009.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/us/politics/23gitmo.html

7. Feldman, Noah, “Who can check the President?” The New York Times Sunday Magazine, January 8, 2006

Baker, “Obama’s War Over Terror.”  The New York Times Sunday Magazine, 4 January 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/magazine/17Terror-t.html

Listen to the following programs (each will take about 50 minutes):

8. “Presidential Power,” The Diane Rehm Show.  WAMU.  January 18, 2006, 10AM.  http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/06/01/18.php#9702

9. “Domestic War on Terrorism,” The Diane Rehm Show.  WAMU.  May 3, 2006, 10AM. http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/06/05/03.php#10259


Paper 9: After the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, the Bush Administration began conducting a “War on Terror.”  Though sometimes using different terminology, the Obama Administration has, for the most part, continued Bush policies in this area.  This war differs from previous conflicts in two enormous respects.  First, traditionally, wars have involved states fighting states.  And, although certain states alleged to abet terrorism are targets of the War on Terror, so are amorphous “borderless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda” (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html)   Second, while state-on-state wars end, President Bush termed this war a “crusade” which “is going to take a while” (Id).  On January 2d of this year, President Obama asserted that “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country” (Weekly Address.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/01/02/weekly-address-fight-against-al-qaeda-0).  In other words, the War on Terror is huge and there is no foreseeable endpoint  Indeed, former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that this war could last for generations (http://articles.sfgate.com/2004-01-15/news/17406402_1_terrorist-attack-union-speech-north-korea-cheney).   As you know, in order to wage the War, Mr. Bush acted to centralize power and information in the Executive Branch, frequently carrying on activities and keeping secrets not only from the public, but from the public’s representatives in Congress.  Many analysts saw this as a serious erosion of checks and balances.  Moreover, civil libertarians have become increasingly alarmed over such tactics as the secret monitoring of international phone calls and e-mail messages of thousands of U.S. citizens without warrants;  secret accessing of banking transactions; denial of due process to prisoners; and possibly even torture.  Did the Bush Administration go too far in its quest for security, endangering the liberty that is at the foundation of our constitutional structure?  Or, were all these measures necessary, and do they continue to be necessary, to in fact preserve and protect our legal framework?


April 20:

Law, Economics, & Class


1. Cates& McIntosh, Chpt. 10

2. Galanter, “Why the ‘Haves’ Come Out Ahead”  Access at: http://pages.towson.edu/cates/Law%20and%20the%20Web%20of%20Society/  

3.  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Income Inequality Hits Record Levels.” http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=917#_ftn2

4. MSNBC, “US Income Gap Widens in Recession.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33066877/ns/business-stocks_and_economy/ 

5. Krugman, “The Great Wealth Transfer.” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/12699486/paul_krugman_on_the_great_wealth_transfer/print

6. Hodge, “Hard Numbers on Obama’s Redistribution Plan.” http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/23319.html

4. Reread Federalist 10.


PAPER 10: In Federalist #10 (remember that?), Madison contends that “the most common durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”  In other (non-Madisonian) words, those that got it, want to keep it; those that don’t got it, want it — the “haves” versus the “have-nots.”  Have our laws been impartial in mediating between the claims of the advantaged and less advantaged?  If not, why not?  If so, how? 


April 27

News Item Preparation Day

There will be no class on this day.  I will be available to consult on presentations for May 4th class.


May 4:

Student Presentations


May 12:

Law As Culture

Readings: Kafka, ALL


PAPER 11: Kafka presents one particular perspective on the relationship between individuals and the legal system.  While his story is clearly exaggerated and allegorical, does Kafka illuminate the frustrations an individual might experience with the law?