What’s On Tap: 1L Spring Semester

AND THEY’RE OFF! Admittedly, we got a nice little water break at the 13.1 mark of the 1L marathon – but now we’re at it again, FULL SPRINT. If you’ve run a marathon you know the second half is way tougher than the first half. So I guess I’m hoping law school is…easier than a marathon?? Unlikely. Here’s my schedule for round two:

CRIMINAL LAW

Mon/Tues, 8:10 – 10:10

The very first case we read was the notorious Queen v. Dudley and Stevens, an 1884 English case about four sailors stranded at sea. After a few weeks and only some turnips and a turtle for food, two of the sailors decided to kill and eat a third. (The fourth said HECK NO I won’t kill him…then ate him after he died). Now, the question is –

Did the two sailors commit murder? Or were they justified by necessity? After all, the third guy was drinking seawater and was probably going to die anyway – and by killing one, three were saved. Do the numbers justify the action?

Spoiler alert: no. Cannibalism (or “The Law of the Sea”) was standard practice at the time, and the English legal system wanted THAT to stop, so they ruled the action murder and sentenced both sailors to death. Then…their sentences were commuted to six months in prison. Everyone treated them like heroes and one guy went right back to sea after serving his time.

Wild, right? (If you want to read the case and hear a lecture about it, there’s one here! http://justiceharvard.org/lecture-2-the-case-for-cannibalism/

Criminal Law discusses everything from the basic requirements of crime, to the different types of criminal activity; classic defenses and standards of liability; and a bit about the criminal process and punishment. Crim is the class that (I think) people look forward to most – it’s definitely the class that all crime shows are made of. I am definitely excited, but Crim is also notorious for heated discussions and extreme tension. My professor is amazing though – Crystal Yang runs a HIGHLY efficient (and non-cannibalistic) ship, so I think it’ll be a productive semester.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

Mon/Tues/Wed, 10:20 – 11:40

I didn’t anticipate Con Law would be very exciting, and some of the reading is admittedly dense. However, there’s no doubt (especially with the impeachment hullabaloo) that it’s a fascinating topic. My professor is notoriously great – he LOVES the Constitution/Supreme Court, and teaches the course in a very unique way. He cold-calls according to last name; A-F on Mondays, G-M on Tuesdays, and N-Z on Wednesdays. That may not sound like a big deal (and we definitely still read every day) but it takes a LOT of pressure off. But I didn’t get sniped yesterday, so this Vann will read extra closely for next Wednesday.

1L Con Law is an overview of the Constitution (surprise!!!) and broken into five sections: an introduction, distribution of federal powers, constitutional limits on state power, equality under the Constitution, and rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. Needless to say, we’ll ALL have read the Constitution by the time this class is over. Thoroughly.

COMPARATIVE LEGAL INSTITUTIONS

Mon/Tues, 3:20-4:50

This is my one elective for the semester, taught by a professor from the University of Chicago. (His last name is Ginsburg, but unfortunately no relation to our Queen). His first day intro went something like this:

“Uh, I just got here, and I don’t know how Harvard works…have you guys even taken Torts yet?” (no)

“Also, this class is more of a theoretical exercise than something you’ll actually use, so…let’s get started!” (???)

In some ways, the course is about comparing legal institutions around the world, from ancient and current civilizations. But also…what do we do besides read and talk about those systems? Where do these comparisons lead?? It’s going to be a great history refresher and broaden my knowledge of law around the world, but – WHAT DOES THE EXAM LOOK LIKE??????

If you didn’t know, that is THE question all Harvard students worry abut. We probably need to chill.

In the first two days, we’ve discussed reasons that law varies across countries (Montesquieu says it’s because of a region’s climate/culture/economy/etc, Saul Levmore says it DOESN’T vary where it matters most, ie holding criminals accountable) and law in stateless societies (even wilder than the cannibalism. Want to pay two of your daughters when your son kills somebody? Then the Pashtuns are the people for YOU!)

I like Comparative Legal Institutions, despite the initial panic of what-are-we-doing and oh-man-these-are-not-all-1Ls-around-me. Prof Ginsburg is from Chicago (another point for him) AND his one required textbook was under twenty bucks. TWENTY BUCKS. My other classes required $200 books, so I said a little hallelujah when I saw that and IMMEDIATELY decided Prof Ginsburg was my favorite.

What can I say, I’m pretty low maintenance.

FIRST-YEAR LEGAL RESEARCH & WRITING (Round II)

Tues, 5-7

LRW is the same class as first semester, except

  1. I’ll write a persuasive brief instead of a predictive brief (so, Judge you should think this! instead of Here’s what I think the Judge will do)
  2. The brief is MUCH longer but I get to work with a partner (yay!)
  3. We’ll also do an oral argument in a kind of ‘moot court,’ AND
  4. The class time is absolutely brutal. 5-7, fourth class of the day? NO.

Anyway. I’m not the biggest fan of this class, but my professor is very nice and legal research and writing are VERY important parts of being a lawyer. At the end of the day, it’s probably the most useful subject!

TORTS

Wed/Fri, 1-3 (groan)

I mean, why on EARTH would you have class on Wednesday….and NOT schedule the second one on Thursday?????

But I’m not bitter. Moving on. Torts is kind of like Criminal Law, but torts lead to civil liability, not criminal liability. An “injury” in torts is an act (or failure to act) that injures/harms another person and holds the harm-er liable for the injury. For example, today we spent ninety minutes on the following scenario:

A 12-yr-old boy lightly kicked a 14-yr-old boy in the shin, but the 14-yr-old had an existing injury and the light touch made his leg PERMANENTLY LAME. (How, you ask? Don’t know. Didn’t read that carefully). So, is the 12-yr-old liable for kicking the 14-yr-old?

Ohhh you betcha. You know how I know? Because I got GRILLED about it for fifteen minutes, and by the end the lesson was drilled into my brain. Strict liability means you don’t need to intend harm to be held liable for the damage you do. You physically did the crime (kicking), you pay the fine (for the lame leg). Even when you’re 12.

In Summary

It’s been three days, literally, and I’m equal parts excited and tired. The cases seem infinitely more interesting (and more tragic) than last semester, and each professor runs their classroom differently than my last set. The variety is good – it keeps us on our toes. We also got to skip the whole “I’m-so-scared-to-get-called-on-I-hope-I-don’t-mess-up-in-front-of-everyone” bit because we’ve already been through it! Our section is comfortable with one another, and fear of speaking in class is largely gone. Plus, we know the general ‘legal lingo’ even if we don’t know the class-specific concepts yet.

So there you have it – Crim, Con Law, Comparative, LRW, and Torts. All the way through my last final on May 15. Stay tuned for how each class progresses!! And if you need me, DON’T catch me on a Tuesday.

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