ROUNDUP: Law and Humanities 06.11.14
The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities (ASLCH) will be holding its 18th annual meeting at Georgetown University Law Centre March 7-8, 2015. ASLCH will be issuing its call for papers in the next few months and abstracts will be due in the fall. Join the ASLCH listserv, follow ASLCH on Facebook, or check back here for updates. Members of the organizing committee are listed here.
If you yearn for more legal drama in your life, check out some new and returning attorneys on the small screen. TNT’s drama Murder In the First pilot episode aired on June 9, but is available for viewing here. Murder in the First was created by Steven Bochco, and stars Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs. Like Bochco’s nineties drama Murder One (ABC, 1995-1996), this show focuses on one criminal case for the entire season. CBS is offering up Reckless, which pits a glamorous female Yankee lawyer, played by Anna Wood, against a handsome South Carolina counselor, played by Cam Gigandet. Premiere: June 29 at 9, 8 Central time. Returning for a fourth season tonight at 9 p.m., 8 Central time, are Patrick J. Adams (Mike Ross) and Gabriel Macht (Harvey Spector) in the USA character-driven show Suits. This show started out with the premise that Spector could hide the fact that his protégé (Ross), while a whiz at law, never actually went to law school. The show has undergone something of a re-calibration: Ross is now working at an investment firm. Still, the two are in contact. We’ll see how this relationship plays out. (Here, star Patrick J. Adams attempts to explain why this series about a fake lawyer seems so popular for real lawyers). The Suits webpage provides a quiz for you to determine “what kind of a lawyer [you would] be.” It’s career advice in good fun.
New books from OUP in the area of law and the humanities:
John W. Cairns, Law, Lawyers, and Humanism: Selected Essays on the History of Scots Law: Volume 1 (Elspeth Reid, ed.; Oxford University Press. 2014) (Edinburgh Studies in Law).
From the publisher’s website:
This collection of the most influential essays on Legal History from the career of John W. Cairns covers the foundation and continuity of Scots Law from 16th and 17th century Scotland, through the 18th century influence of Dutch Humanism, into the 19th century and the further development of the Scots legal system and profession.
Ross E. Cheit, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Oxford University Press, 2014).
From the publisher’s website:
In the 1980s, a series of child sex abuse cases rocked the United States. The most famous case was the 1984 McMartin preschool case, but there were a number of others as well. By the latter part of the decade, the assumption was widespread that child sex abuse had become a serious problem in America. Yet within a few years, the concern about it died down considerably. The failure to convict anyone in the McMartin case and a widely publicized appellate decision in New Jersey that freed an accused molester had turned the dominant narrative on its head. In the early 1990s, a new narrative with remarkable staying power emerged: the child sex abuse cases were symptomatic of a ‘moral panic’ that had produced a witch hunt. A central claim in this new witch hunt narrative was that the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutorial suggestion. In time, the notion that child sex abuse was a product of sensationalized over-reporting and far less endemic than originally thought became the new common sense.
But did the new witch hunt narrative accurately represent reality? As Ross Cheit demonstrates in his exhaustive account of child sex abuse cases in the past two and a half decades, purveyors of the witch hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Instead, they treated a couple of cases as representative and concluded that the issue was blown far out of proportion. Drawing on years of research into cases in a number of states, Cheit shows that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all. In fact, child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences, and the crime occurred far more frequently than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Cheit’s aim is not to simply prove the narrative wrong, however. He also shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with a far more grim reality. The belief that the charge of child sex abuse was typically a hoax also left us unprepared to deal with the far greater scandal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, which, incidentally, has served to substantiate Cheit’s thesis about the pervasiveness of the problem. In sum, The Witch-Hunt Narrative is a magisterial and empirically powerful account of the social dynamics that led to the denial of widespread human tragedy.
Richard H. Weisberg, In Praise of Intransigence: The Perils of Flexibility (Oxford University Press, 2014).
From the publisher’s website:
Flexibility is usually seen as a virtue in today’s world. Even the dictionary seems to dislike those who stick too hard to their own positions. The thesaurus links “intransigence” to a whole host of words signifying a distaste for loyalty to fixed positions: intractable, stubborn, Pharisaic, close-minded, and stiff-necked, to name a few.
In this short and provocative book, constitutional law professor Richard H. Weisberg asks us to reexamine our collective cultural bias toward flexibility, open-mindedness, and compromise. He argues that flexibility has not fared well over the course of history. Indeed, emergencies both real and imagined have led people to betray their soundest traditions.
Weisberg explores the rise of flexibility, which he traces not only to the Enlightenment but further back to early Christian reinterpretation of Jewish sacred texts. He illustrates his argument with historical examples from Vichy France and the occupation of the British Channel Islands during World War II as well as post-9/11 betrayals of sound American traditions against torture, eavesdropping, unlimited detention, and drone killings.
Despite the damage wrought by Western society’s incautious embrace of flexibility over the past two millennia, Weisberg does not make the case for unthinking rigidity. Rather, he argues that a willingness to embrace intransigence allows us to recognize that we have beliefs worth holding on to — without compromise.