Chapter 1 - The Nature of Law


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  • The links are to the U.S. Constitution from the House Documents Online via GPO Access, and to the Clean Air Act on the U.S. federal Environmental Protection Agency website.
  • The case of Young v. Beck involved a teenager (Young) who was injured in an automobile accident driven by teenager Beck. Young sued both the teenaged Beck and his parents under the “family purpose doctrine”: “[A parent] who furnishes an automobile for the pleasure and convenience of the members of his family makes the use of the machine for the above purposes his affair or business….” The case rose through the state court system to the Arizona Supreme Court, which decided that holding the parents liable for negligent acts of the teenager was a common law rule justly established for a public policy purpose.
  • The hyperlink is to the Handbook of the Antarctic Treaty System on the U.S. Department of State website.
  • The hyperlink is to the listing of executive orders on the U.S. Government website.
  • This case concerns a 1986 rape and murder of a Michigan woman and subsequent wrongful death case filed by her daughter (Trentadue) on the basis of DNA evidence obtained in 2002. The DNA evidence led to the conviction and imprisonment of the perpetrator, Jeffrey Gorton. Trentadue sued Gorton’s parents, who had employed their son in their corporation. Several other defendants were also sued. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death cases established a three year time limit for filing claims, but applying the common law discovery rule would mean that the statute of limitations would begin in 2002 when the DNA evidence was established. The trial and appellate courts ruled in favor of the discovery rule, which would have allowed the case to go forward. However, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the lower courts, following the statute of limitations rather than the common law discovery rule. This is an interesting case for discussion since many find the state Supreme Court’s ruling to be unfair. One might think that, since the case was filed 16 years after the murder and the DNA evidence led to the conviction and imprisonment of the perpetrator, the result seems more fair. However, the judge specifically stated that even if the killer had not been found, the three-year statute of limitations would stand. In Dec. 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court decided another case (Colaianni v. Stuart Frankel Development) concerning the discovery rule by dismissing it; this leaves the Trentadue decision stand.
  • The writings of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Roscoe Pound, well-known legal philosophers, document sociological jurisprudence. Holmes wrote, “[t]he first requirement of a sound body of law is, that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community, whether right or wrong.”
  • The hyperlink is to the case opinion on the Florida Supreme Court website.
  • Example A refers to the question in Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v., LLC. The court discussed why “interactive service providers” were provided immunity under the statute and whether the particular defendant had gone beyond the purpose of the immunity so as to incur liability for its acts. Note that the opinion in the text is the rehearing by the Ninth Circuit en banc .  The original decision was issued on May 15, 2007 by a three judge panel. The en banc court ruled 8-3 to uphold the original panel decision. Judge Kozinski wrote the majority opinion for the en banc decision and had also written the lead opinion in the three-judge panel ruling. For the original ruling, a number of computer service providers provided amicus curiae briefs:, Inc., America Online, Inc., Ebay Inc., Google Inc., Tribune Company, Yahoo! Inc., Netchoice and United States Internet Service Provider Association. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit internet watchdog that submitted an amicus brief requesting rehearing, the decision was “a dangerous holding that endangered features like search customization and user feedback on interactive web services.” Example B is the General Dynamics case.
  • The hyperlink is to the case information and opinion on the Supreme Court of the United States Blog website.
  • Interestingly, the Supreme Court did not refer to their 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010). In Citizens United, the Supreme Court declared that a corporation has the right of freedom of speech as does a human person.
  • The hyperlink is to the case information and opinion on the website. The class should discuss the interpretation of the treaty language in light of the facts of the case. In the case, the deceased passenger had a condition that cigarette smoking made much worse. The passenger repeatedly requested to be moved away from the smoking section and the flight attendant refused. The passenger became very ill, walked to the front of the airliner to get fresh air and collapsed and died. The wife of the deceased filed a wrongful death action against the airline company. The district court found the company liable and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court interpreted “accident” to be an unexpected or unusual event. The Court also stated that, “for purposes of the ‘accident’ inquiry, a plaintiff need only prove that ‘some link in the chain was an unusual or unexpected event external to the passenger.’ ” The Court determined that the flight attendant’s repeated refusal to assist the deceased was an unusual or unexpected event within the meaning of the treaty’s language.
  • True True False. Stare decisis (to stand on the decision) refers to the doctrine of precedent. The doctrine of equity is applied by judges to achieve justice when legal rules would produce unfair results True
  • False. Civil law establishes duties between private parties. False. Substantive law establishes the rights and duties of people in society. Procedural law establishes how to enforce the rights and duties of people in society. True False. Legal reasoning is deductive.
  • The correct answer is (b)
  • The correct answer is (e)
  • Class discussion
  • Chapter 1 - The Nature of Law

    1. 1. 1-1McGraw-Hill/Irwin Copyright © 2013 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
    2. 2. 1 P A R TFoundations of American Law • The Nature of Law • The Resolution of Private Disputes • Business and The Constitution • Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Governance, and Critical Thinking 1-2
    3. 3. C H A P T E R 01 The Nature of Law“The sacred rights of mankind . . . are written, as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, . . . and cannever be erased or obscured by mortal power.” Alexander Hamilton, 1775 1-3
    4. 4. Learning Objectives• Identify sources and types of law• Identify the law that has precedence when laws conflict• Differentiate criminal law from civil law• Differentiate schools of jurisprudence• Describe precedent (stare decisis)• Explain major techniques of statutory interpretation 1-4
    5. 5. Types and Classifications of Law At the federal, state, and tribal level: •Constitutions: establish governmental structure, specific rights and duties – Example: U.S. Constitution •Statutes: enacted by legislative body to regulate conduct – Example: Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401 et seq. (1970) 1-5
    6. 6. Types and Classifications of Law• Common law or case law is made and applied by judges at the state level as judges decide cases according to the doctrine of precedent or stare decisis (let the decision stand) – Example: in the negligence case of Young v. Beck, the court reviewed applicable law and concluded that a long-standing common law rule should remain in effect 1-6
    7. 7. Types and Classifications of Law• Equity is applied by state level judiciary to achieve justice when common law rules would produce unfair results – Injunction: court forbids a party to do some act or orders a party to perform an act – Specific performance: party is ordered to perform according to contract terms – Reformation: court rewrites contract to reflect intention of parties – Recission: cancellation of the contract 1-7
    8. 8. Types and Classifications of Law • Administrative Regulations & Decisions: made by state and federal agencies that were created by statute and hold delegated (granted) power • Treaty: made with other nations, by the U.S. president on behalf of the nation, approved (ratified) by the U.S. Senate – Example: The Antarctic Treaty 1-8
    9. 9. Types and Classifications of Law • Ordinance: made by subunits of state governments (e.g., counties, cities) for local issues, such as zoning • Executive Order: issued by the U.S. President or a state governor under limited powers – Example: Executive Orders Disposition Tables Index 1-9
    10. 10. Priority Rules• Federal supremacy: a rule of priority for conflicts between laws stating that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law – Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution• Practical meaning: – Federal law defeats state law – State constitution defeats state legislation – Statute defeats administrative regulation – Statute or regulation defeats common law 1-10
    11. 11. Trentadue v. Gorton• Facts & Procedural History: – Trial court decided that common law discovery rule applied to claims against corporate defendants for the crime of an employee rather than a statute of limitations. Appellate court affirmed and case appealed.• Issue: Does a legislated rule (statute of limitations) abrogate a common law rule?• Holding: Yes. Plain language of statute indicates a legislative intent to exclude common law rules. 1-11
    12. 12. Classification of Law• Criminal law establishes duties to society – Government charges and prosecutes defendant, who will be found guilty or innocent – A convicted defendant will be imprisoned or fined 1-12
    13. 13. Classification of Law• Civil law establishes duties and obligations between private parties – Plaintiff sues defendant for monetary damages or equitable relief – A defendant will be held liable or not liable for the plaintiff’s injury 1-13
    14. 14. Classification of Law• Substantive law establishes rights and duties of people in society – Example: A statute making murder a crime is a substantive law• Procedural law establishes how to enforce those rights and duties – Example: Rules for the proper conduct of a trial are rules of procedural law 1-14
    15. 15. Classification of Law• Public law refers to the relationship between governments and private parties – Examples: constitutional, statutory, and administrative law• Private law refers to the regulation of conduct between private parties – Examples: contract, tort, property, and agency laws 1-15
    16. 16. Jurisprudence• Jurisprudence refers to the philosophy of law as well as the collection of laws• Legal positivism: law is the command of a recognized political authority – Just or unjust, law must be obeyed• Natural law: universal moral rules bind all people whether written or unwritten – Unjust positive laws are invalid 1-16
    17. 17. Jurisprudence• American legal realism defines law as the behavior of the judiciary as they rule on matters within the legal system – Thus law in action dominates positive law• Sociological jurisprudence unites theories that examine law within its social context 1-17
    18. 18. Functions of Law• Peacekeeping• Checking government power and promoting personal freedom• Facilitating planning and the realization of reasonable expectations• Promoting economic growth through free competition• Promoting social justice• Protecting the environment 1-18
    19. 19. Legal Reasoning• Basically deductive, with legal rule as major premise and facts as the minor premise – Result is product of the two• Case law reasoning: Court may stand on precedent or distinguish prior case from current case – If precedent inapplicable, new rule developed 1-19
    20. 20. Hagan v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co.• Facts & Procedural History: – Florida plaintiffs drank from bottle of Coke, found foreign object, suffered emotional distress, and brought suit for negligence – Jury returned verdict for plaintiffs, judge reduced jury award, & both parties appealed – Certified question sent to Florida Supreme Court• Question: Should the impact rule (physical injury required to state a claim) be abolished or amended in Florida? 1-20
    21. 21. Hagan v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co.• Court’s Reasoning: – Reviewed facts and arguments of parties – Reviewed application of impact rule within Florida, including modifications to the rule – Discussed public policy recognized by the Florida Supreme Court in Doyle v. Pillsbury Co. – Noted court decisions in other states• Holding: Impact rule does not apply where emotional damages are caused by conduct that is a freestanding tort (e.g., contaminated food) 1-21
    22. 22. Reasoning by Statutory Interpretation• Plain meaning rule: court applies statute according to usual meaning of the words• Courts examine legislative history and purpose when plain meaning rule is inadequate – Example A: Why does the Communications Decency Act offer immunity for some entities? – Example B: What is meant by a prohibition against discrimination “because of an individual’s age?” 1-22
    23. 23. Federal Communications Commission v. • Facts: – Corporation challenged a Freedom of Information Act request arguing that Exemption 7(C), an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, applied to the request and prevented disclosure • Issue: whether corporations have “personal privacy” for the purposes of this exemption? 1-23
    24. 24. Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc.• Reasoning: – “Personal” not defined by the statute, but “personal privacy” ordinarily refers to individuals and the ordinary meaning of the phrase should apply• Holding: – Corporations do not have “personal privacy” for purposes of Exemption 7(C) 1-24
    25. 25. Statutory Interpretation• Courts may interpret a statute in light of a general public purpose or public policy• Courts follow prior interpretation of a statute (precedent) to promote consistency• Maxims may be used to assist in statutory interpretation 1-25
    26. 26. Statutory Interpretation• Example of a maxim: – Ejusdem generis (things of the same type) – When general words follow specific words, the general words are limited to the same things as specific words • “Automobiles and other vehicles” does not include airplanes 1-26
    27. 27. Limitations on Judicial Power• Courts limited to deciding existing cases or controversies – In other words, the dispute must be current and not yet resolved – However, a declaratory judgment allows parties to determine rights and duties prior to harm occurring 1-27
    28. 28. Limitations on Judicial Power• Parties must have standing (direct interest in the outcome) to sue Whales, for example, do not have standing  The Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004) 1-28
    29. 29. Global Business Environment• Courts may faced with treaty interpretation “The carrier shall be liable for damage sustained in the event of• U.S. Supreme Court the death or wounding of a passenger or any interpreted The Warsaw other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, Convention in if the accident which caused the damage so Olympic Airways v. sustained took place on board the aircraft or in Husain the course of the operations of embarking• How would you have or disembarking.” Warsaw Convention, interpreted the treaty Art. 17 language? 1-29
    30. 30. Test Your Knowledge• True=A, False = B – The Constitution, statutes, and case law are sources of law in the United States – Agency regulations, presidential orders, and treaties are sources of law in the United States – Stare decisis refers to the doctrine of equity – The Supremacy Clause states that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land 1-30
    31. 31. Test Your Knowledge• True=A, False = B – Civil law establishes the duties an individual has to keeping a civil society – Substantive law establishes how to enforce the rights and duties of people in society – Jurisprudence refers to the philosophy of law as well as the collection of laws – Legal reasoning is basically inductive 1-31
    32. 32. Test Your Knowledge• Multiple Choice – The plain meaning rule means that the court applies a statute a) according to the unique or special meaning of words b) according to usual meaning of the words c) according to public policy and legislative purpose 1-32
    33. 33. Test Your Knowledge• Multiple Choice – Courts are: a) Limited to hearing existing cases or controversies b) Limited to hearing cases in which plaintiff has standing (a direct interest in the outcome) c) Unlimited in types of cases they may hear d) All of the above e) Both A & B 1-33
    34. 34. Thought Question• What do you think the authors of the U.S. Constitution would think about current legal issues in our society? 1-34