Understanding Law/My Legal Essays*
Bill Long 11/17/07
*News Flash: On December 1, 2007, I began writing the Supreme Court Times, which are plain-language summaries of US Supreme Court decisions. Click here for access to that page.
I began writing these essays early in Spring 2004 in order to assist my law students in understanding what they were studying. My first essays, which aren't even linked on the left, are in Sales Law. I was just learning the technology to do my web page in Feb-March 2004, and so my first essays are rather incomplete attempts to "get started" on the second half of the course.
But then, beginning in Fall 2004-Spring 2005, I began to write in earnest on both Insurance and Jurisprudence, courses which were on my "plate" that year. I taught Sales Law again in Spring 2005, and my essays on Sales to the left originate from that time. Thus, the essays on sales, insurance and jurisprudence to the left emerged from my teaching of these courses from 2003-2006. The essays on the "history of sales law" emerged from my attempt to try to put this important aspect of law in a larger perspective. I wasn't able to spend as much time on that as I desired, and the essays there are indicative of that. I did post, for the first time on the Net, the Uniform Sales Law of 1906, which is the precursor of our Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Prof. Allan Kamp is doing some interesting work on the history of Article 2 now, and I would direct you to articles he has written.
Other Interests Develop
But I had other interests in law which began to develop as I was writing essays for my students. Because my Ph. D. is in the history of religions, I had wanted for years to develop an understanding of how law considers religion in our society. My summaries of significant Supreme Court cases under the First Amendment are the result of this effort. I decided not to do much with religion and law beyond this because I found it hard to divine a clear and principled approach to First Amendment religion issues by the United States Supreme Court.
Perhaps my most long-lasting contribution to studying law on these pages, however, will be my legal history essays. They began haltingly, as with everything else, but now they are a means for me to explore historical topics in great detail which have a "legal angle." Though I began some of my legal history essays just rooting around in the American past, I am increasingly writing focused collections of essays centering around a problem or a period in American life/legal history. A few examples will explain this. My essays on the 14th Amendment and its background emerge from the general observation that there were times "overfraught" with events. In order to understand the 14th Amendment, you simply have to review the events of 1865-1868 with diligence and patience. I hope my essays help you do that.
Then, I chose another priod in American history where legal themes piled up quickly--the Presidential Election of 1800 and its aftermath. I wrote about 30 essays on this issue because I thought that online treatments of the issue were either inaccurate or incomplete and the books treating the subject were often riddled with inconsistencies, unhelpful explanations or digressions. Brief essays describing various aspects of problems is the way I have arranged my thoughts.
Then, in the last few weeks, I decided to write several essays on the life of Aaron Burr, Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson (1801-05) and one of the most interesting people in American history. I again had to sort out history "day-by-day," so to speak, in order to make sense of this most curious person.
Today I began another series of brief historical essays--this time on the development of law and legal institutions in Territorial Kansas (1854-1861). This period was the "hottest" time in our national history; partisanship was so severe that it makes it look as if our disagreements today are minor in comparison. But I also want to explore another historical topic soon--and that is aspects of the life of Cicero, the Roman statesman, philosopher, lawyer and rhetorician, with whom I became re-acquainted in an interesting way in a recent trip to the Midwest.
Conclusion--The Legal Essays
Since I left law teaching in Dec. 2006, my major contribution in these essays is in legal history--American and other. But I also have written several essays I loosely categorize under "legal essays," most of which are brief pieces on contemporary issues in law, mostly issues that are on the "front pages" of the newspapers. These ephemera illustrate the way that law enters into the daily life of all of us; they also delve a little deeper behind the "front page" story, to understand the legal ramifications of the headlines. For example, I had a great deal of fun researching and then writing on the sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly, which he settled for a big sum of money and then hoped everyone would forget.
I hope you find these essays useful and even stimulating.
Dr. Bill Long