Syllabus for Paganism & the Law

Paganism and the Law
Instructor: John Halstead

Register Here

Introduction

This will not be a typical “Know Your Rights” class. Instead, we will be taking a critical look at the American Legal Tradition from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. For the purposes of this class, a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective is one that sees community as interconnected, biocentric, and cooperative, rather than mechanistic, anthropocentric, and adversarial.

The American legal tradition was formed and continues to be shaped by a Judeo-Christian heritage, as interpreted through the Enlightenment. As a result, the law makes certain assumptions about the relationship between individuals, society and the earth. We will examine and challenge those assumptions.

The first 4 weeks will be an introduction to the law and lawyering. We will meet once a week online for a combination lecture/discussion. During this introduction we will be reading and reflecting on Frtijof Capra’s The Ecology of Law. If you have not ordered a copy, you will need to do so ASAP. It is available on Kindle.

The next 9 weeks we will look at different areas of law from the perspective of a first-year law student. We will attempt to deconstruct the assumptions which form that perspective and begin imagining an alternative legal model. Students will be given historical and contemporary legal cases to read before the class discussion. There will be no lecture, beyond a short introduction. Instead, we will meet online to discuss the cases. We will use the Socratic method, which means students will be called upon to answer questions about the readings during the discussion. Thus, it will be critical to complete the reading before the discussion.

The last two weeks of class will be for students to work on the final project and presentation. Students will imaginatively reconstruct 3 cases from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective and present their work to the class during the final discussion.

Weeks 1-4: Reading Reflections and & Discussion Reflections
For weeks 1-4, we will be reading 2-3 chapters of The Ecology of Law each week. Write a 1000-2000 word reflection on each reading.
Also, write a 1000-2000 word reflection on a designated question for that week. Week 2 will require some internet and/or library research.

Weeks 5-13: Weekly Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignments
For each case under consideration:

  1. Write a legal outline for the case. Use the IRAC method.
  2. Identify the Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment assumptions in the decision. Remember to refer to the “Questions to Be Asked in Every Legal Case”.
  3. Deconstruct each element from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. Remember, a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective sees community as interconnected, biocentric, and cooperative, rather than mechanistic, anthropocentric, and adversarial.
  4. Map the network of the case from an Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. Focus on relationships, not individuals. Remember to look for reciprocal relationships/feedback loops, not just linear/one-way relationships. List or put question marks where persons, relationships, or other information is missing. This can be done in essay form or visually with charts, diagrams, etc. Feel free to be creative.

Weeks 14-15: Final Projects and Class Presentations
Chose 3 cases from 3 different areas of law which we deconstructed this semester. Where there are question marks, do some online research and see what you can find to fill in some of those blanks. For the rest, use your imagination. (No sci-fi though.) Indicate where you have had to fill in the blanks.

Map the network of the case from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. Network not just the substance of the case, but also the procedure. Remember, a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective sees community as interconnected, biocentric, and cooperative, rather than mechanistic, anthropocentric, and adversarial.

Consider these questions:

• What is the proper forum?
• Who has the authority to decide?
• Who are the proper parties?
• Who should be included and who should be excluded?
• Who can speak for the parties?
• What are the issues?
• What are the relevant facts?
• How should we think about the issues and the facts?
• What role does authority play?
• What counts as an authority?
• What should and should not be considered?
• What other questions should be asked?
• Are some of the questions above the wrong questions?

Focus on relationships, not individuals. Remember to look for reciprocal relationships/feedback loops, not just linear/one-way relationships.

The outcome (and even the procedure) of the case will inevitably change based on your inclusion of different persons/relationships. Resist the temptation to reason backward from a desired outcome. Applying a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective may lead to outcomes you could not have imagined otherwise.

The project can take an essay form (3000-6000 words) or a visual form with charts, diagrams, drawings, etc. (equivalent in effort to a 3000-6000 word essay). Be creative!

You will be presenting your project on the final day of class.

Grades

Final grades will be determined as follows:
Weekly written assignments: 33%
Weekly discussions: 33%
Final project & presentation: 34%

Course text

The Ecology of Law: Toward A Legal System In Tune With Nature And Community by Fritjof Capra & Ugo Mattei; Oakland, CA : Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2015)
Week 1: 21 January – 27 January
Introduction to Course: What is the Law? Why that’s my least favorite question, and the problem with “Know Your Rights” books.

Assignments:
Discussion Reflection Assignment
Reading Reflection Assignment

Resources:
Schoolhouse Rock- How a Bill Becomes a Law (FOR NOSTALGIA)
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)
Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)
“The Path of the Law” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Week 2: 28 January – 3 February
The Layperson’s Experience of the Law: The Professionalization of the Law

Assignments:
Research Reflection Assignment
Reading Reflection Assignment

Week 3: 4 February – 10 February
The Origins of Our Conception of the Law in Judeo-Christian Religion and the Enlightenment

Assignments:
Discussion Reflection Assignment
Reading Reflection Assignment

Resources:
“Interconnectedness” by John Halstead
“Do Trees Have Rights” by John Halstead
“Being Nature: extending civil rights to the natural world” by Mumta Ito
“Nature’s rights: a new paradigm for environmental protection” by Mumta Ito
Law of Mother Earth: The Rights of Our Planet: A Vision from Bolivia
“Nature’s Rights” by Kadmus H
“An Animist Manifesto” by Graham Harvey
“Should Trees Have Standing?” by Christopher Stone
“What Whales Have to Teach Humans About Capitalism” by Laura Bridgeman
SONAR
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by Fritjof Capra

Week 4: 11 February – 17 February
The Socialization of a Lawyer: Learning to Think Like a Lawyer

Assignments:
Discussion Reflection Assignment
Reading Reflection Assignment

Resources:
Organizing A Legal Discussion (Columbia Law School)
The IRAC Formula
Questions to Ask in Every Legal Case Page
Quote from “Moral Responsibility in the Age of Bureaucracy”

Week 5: 18 February – 24 February
1L: Torts (Injury to Person or Property)

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment
Genogram (Wikipedia)
Eco-Map (Wikipedia)
Sample Eco-Map

Resources:
Palsgraf v. The Long Island Railroad Company, Court of Appeals of New York (1928) [proximate cause]
United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 2d Circuit (1947) [law and economics school]
McMahon v. Bunn Matic Corp., 7th Circuit (1998) [hot coffee case]
Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants (Wikipedia/for context on McMahon case)
Additional cases will be added

Week 6: 25 February – 3 March
1L: Property

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
Pierson v. Post, New York Supreme Court (1805)
Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. M’Intosh, U.S. Supreme Court (1823) [Native American title]
United States v. The Amistad, U.S. Supreme Court (1841) [slave ship]
Additional cases will be added

Week 7: 4 March – 10 March
1L: Contracts

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
Hawkins v. McGee, New Hampshire Supreme Court (1929)
Gregson v. Gilbert, Court of King’s Bench (1783) (Zong Massacre)
Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (1999) [Pepsi points case]
Additional cases will be added

Week 8: 11 March – 17 March
1L: Criminal Law

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
The Queen v. Dudley & Stevens [maritime cannibalism]
Re A [conjoined twins]
Additional cases will be added

Week 9: 18 March – 24 March
1L: Civil Procedure

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
International Shoe v. State of Washington, U.S. Supreme Court (1945) [personal jurisdiction]
Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, U.S. Supreme Court (1938) [federal common law]
Pennoyer v. Neff, U.S. Supreme Court (1878) [personal jurisdiction]
Massachusetts v. Mellon, U.S. Supreme Court (1923) [standing]
Additional cases will be added

Week 10: 25 March – 31 March
1L: Constitutional Law

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
Lochner v. New York, U.S. Supreme Court (1905) [freedom of contract]
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, U.S. Supreme Court (2010) [corporate speech]
Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court (1973) [abortion]
Obergefell v. Hodges, U.S. Supreme Court (2015) [LGBT rights]
Additional cases will be added

Week 11: 1 April – 7 April
1L: Constitutional Law, Part 2: Religion

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, U.S. Supreme Court (1993) (animal sacrifice)
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, U.S. Supreme Court (2014)
Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, U.S. Supreme Court (2018)
Additional cases will be added

Week 12: 8 April – 14 April
Pagans & the Law: Employment, Family Law, and Prisoners’ Rights

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
Roberts v. Ravenwood Church, Supreme Court of Georgia (1982) [definition of religion]
Dettmer v. Robert Landon, Director of Corrections, 4th Circuit (1986) [prisoners’ rights]
Jones v. Jones, Indiana Court of Appeals (2005) [family law]
Dodge v. Salvation Army, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi (1989) [employment]
Additional cases will be added

Week 13: 15 April – 21 April
Climate Change & Activism

Assignments:
Legal Analysis and Deconstruction Assignment

Resources:
U.S. v. Schoon, 9th Circuit (1991) (necessity defense)
Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., 9th Circuit (2012)
Juliana v. U.S., U.S. District Court, District of Oregon (2016)
Our Children’s Trust
Additional cases will be added

Week 14: 22 April – 28 April

Work on Student Presentations
There will be no online discussion, but I will be available to discuss the final projects/presentations.

Week 15: 29 April – 5 May

Final Projects due
Student Presentations
Please fill out the Student Course Evaluation form in the upper right corner of your Moodle home page.

 

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