Mills v. Wyman, an 1825 Massachusetts case, which is featured in one of the more popular first year casebooks, raises the question of the relationship between law and morality. Incurring various expenses, Daniel Mills cared for a 25 year old sick sailor, Levi Wyman, who then died. His father, Seth Wyman, wrote to Mills promising to pay for those expenses, but then reneged on the promise. Mills brought suit, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a lower court holding that no action lay. Consideration is required to hold liable a promisor, and according to the court, Mills had given no consideration in return for Wyman’s promise; consideration could not consist of past action. Despite their respective holdings, the lower court had termed Wyman’s conduct “a strong example of particular injustice,” and the Supreme Judicial Court stated that Wyman had a “moral obligation” to fulfill the promise. But, to the court, a violation of a “moral duty” was not equivalent to a violation of a legal one. Continue reading
by Gabriel Arkles, Legal Research and Writing Professor
In 2006, Christina Sforza, a homeless Latina transgender woman, went to a MacDonald’s in NYC with her friends. While there, she used the women’s restroom. Trans women should always be able to use the restroom that matches their gender identity, but in this case she didn’t have an alternative anyway: the men’s room was out of order. Christina even asked an employee which restroom to use and the employee pointed her to the women’s room. Nonetheless, when she was inside it someone began pounding on the door and threatening to kill her unless she came out. When she did, a MacDonald’s manager began beating her with a lead pipe on her chest, groin, head, and arms. Employees began chanting “Kill the faggot!” Christina’s friend called the police. Christina was on the floor bleeding when the police arrived. Still, when her attacker accused her of being a “man in the women’s restroom,” the police arrested Christina rather than her attacker. While the charges against Christina were ultimately dismissed, the police threatened to arrest her again when she tried to make a complaint against her attacker.
by Professor Mary O’Connell
Every November, I make my way to Dedham, Massachusetts – which is not on my usual itinerary. There I meet with the judges of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court as part of the Court’s annual Freedman Retreat. The retreat is a rare opportunity for the judges to leave the courtroom for two days and come together to talk about issues of interest and concern in the ever-changing landscape of family law.
by Andrew ’16
In the months leading up to law school, many “law students to-be” engage in vast amounts of research about what it is like to be in “law school.” Luckily there are various websites that happily pander to the inquisitive future 1L. Using their imagination and a little information, a future law student can create an image of how the unknown may turn out.
Before I started law school, I spent most of my time wondering about the classrooms and methods of teaching. You read books like “The Paper Chase” or “1L” and come away with the idea that a law classroom is an awful place, where blood pressures run high and confidence runs low. Physically, I imagined a cold room lit harshly with fluorescent bulbs, an angry professor glued to a lectern at the front, and insults fired at students. The famed Socratic Method that law school is known for seemed like a form of torture used to punish hapless newbies. I am happy to report that I have seen none of those manifestations. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
When I was in law school, I was troubled that my civil procedure professor kept telling us that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“the Federal Rules”), which govern how non-criminal cases are processed in all federal trial courts, were the most enlightened procedural code on the planet. But we were not told a word about how or why they became law in 1938. It was as if these rules descended full blown from heaven.
Frustration can be an impetus for inquiry. Upon becoming a law professor in 1970, I have spent much of my professional life trying to figure out the historical background of procedural rules – who wants and benefits from procedural change and how do they achieve procedural reform. And so I wrote the historical background of the Federal Rules and the mid-nineteenth century Field Code (that provided rules for civil cases for over half of the citizens in the country).
With the invaluable help of my former student and frequent co-author, Thom Main ‘94, who now teaches at the William S. Boyd School of Law, U. of Nevada, Law Vegas, and countless NUSL students, I have been working on the historical background of current American civil procedure. We call this “The Fourth Era of American Civil Procedure.”
Networking can be scary and uncomfortable. It can lead to dead-ends and awkward small talk. But we do it anyway, because we understand the importance of meeting people who can help us define our paths. Continue reading