Line Drawing

By Professor David Phillips

A key activity of those involved with “law,” whether it’s in the context of creating law or applying law to given facts, is either to draw lines or to decipher on which side of a line a certain activity falls. The speed limit on a particular street or highway presents an obvious example.  Let’s say that the speed limit on a superhighway is 65 mph; one drives legally at or below that “line,” whereas one drives illegally above that speed limit and possibly subjects him or herself to a fine.  But when I say that law is about line-drawing, I mean such on a more embracing and hopefully sophisticated level.  And, to be realistic, even this simple initial example of a speed limit is far more complex than would at first appear, as we shall discover when returning to it later.  Read on to try some other examples first and through these examples discover some of the ideas you’ll struggle with as you proceed through the first-year of law school.

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