2011 Conference Program (PDF) - Syracuse University College of Law


2011 Conference Program (PDF) - Syracuse University College of Law

6.3 Custom, Code, and the Common Law

police power, statutory construction, unfair competition, health and sanitation, and

individual rights. The paper examines East LA’s “Taco Truck War” of 2008, current

West LA contests, and national food truck fervor. It concludes that the simple act of

buying or selling street food comes with a large plate of competing cultural values.

Anne Sappington

The Common Law Mind Abroad: Comparisons of English and Irish Legal Antiquity in

the writings of Edmund Spenser and Sir John Davies

This paper focuses on the writings of two early modern English bureaucrats in Ireland:

Edmund Spenser and Sir John Davies. In it, I analyze the antiquarian interests in Irish

brehon law and English common law shared by Spenser’s Veue of the Present State of

Ireland and Davies’s First Report and True Cause Why Ireland was Never Entirely

Subdued. I argue that this preoccupation allowed both men not only to consider the

potential of English common law as an instrument of “civilization” in Ireland but also to

test the social merits of common law against the potential benefits of brehon law. Finally,

I propose that both men used their comparisons of the English and Irish legal systems to

assess common law’s relationship with both ancient English custom and natural law.

Olga Soloveiva

Can Common Law Be Kafkaesque

6.4 The Theater of Law

“The Trial” is an inexact translation of the German “Der Prozess,” literally “procedure”.

This famous novel written by an insurance lawyer is nothing other than a narration of

judicial procedure in Roman law. The eerie nature of Kafka’s narrative results from its

bureaucratic nakedness: as if the Rules of Judicial Procedure were going forward on their

own without any actual cause of action. Joseph K’s adventures on the way to his demise

are expressly external to the unfolding of the set of rules, which he follows as blindly and

abstractly as his own name (reminiscent of textbook exercises) suggests. I ask a

hypothetical question: what would Kafka’s narrative have looked like if the legal pattern

informing it were based on common law This hypothetical rewriting of Kafka’s novel is

a device that foregrounds the major narrative differences between the Roman and

Common Law and their cultural and political implications.

Jacky O’Connor

“My, but you have an impressive judicial air!”: Tennessee Williams Encodes the Law

When Stanley Kowalski announces that in “Louisiana we have the Napoleonic code

according to which what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa,” he

invokes state law in the first of a series of challenges to his wife’s sister Blanche DuBois.

The dramatic struggle that plays out in a French Quarter apartment in A Streetcar Named

Desire ends with Stanley expelling Blanche from the premises, backed by yet another

Louisiana code, one that empowers him to commit a relative to the state mental

institution. Unlike fellow Southerner William Faulkner, however, Williams would appear

to have scant knowledge of or interest in the law, the codes tested or tried in his drama

more likely social or cultural than legal. But an explication of Streetcar alongside the

examination of select Southern civil and criminal statutes demonstrates that the play’s

conflict is equal parts poetic and political.

Renee Newman Knake

How Theater Illuminates the Law: Revisiting NAACP v. Button Through Music History

This paper explores ways that art—in particular drama and the theater—illuminates the

law by examining the lessons Sandra Seaton’s play Music History offers to the

contemporary audience about the Supreme Court’s decision in NAACP v. Button, a case

decided in 1963, the same year the play is set. The Button case established for the first



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