American Legal History

Required Books:

  • Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press pb.
  • Richard H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art. Thames & Hudson pb. (REA)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson, Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art. Thames & Hudson pb. (SMEA)


Mon. 10-12, Wed. 2:30-3:30, and by appt.
E-mail: dubof@binghamton.edu
TAS: J. Anzalone (anzalo0@binghamton.edu) A. Dekoter (adekoter@hotmail.com)
G. Geddes (ggeddes@stny.rr.com)
G. Welch (gaylynnw@yahoo.com)

  1. Preliminary Statement: This course remains as new to me as it probably is to all of you. Having taught it only four times before, I am still not sure how my approach to legal history will evolve or precisely what all of us will learn by the semester's end. Briefly, I hope that we learn that the "law" derives its meaning or essence from history, from the actions and interactions, desires and struggles, of human beings, that in the words made famous by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "the life of the law is experience not logic." What we want to examine is how humans experienced the law in the past and how those experiences shaped the law for future generations. Our concern is history not legal procedures, terms, or definitions. All that can wait for law school.
  2. Procedures, Requirements, Grades: All students will be expected to attend lectures and discussion sections regularly. Please arrive on time. In a large class, tardiness disrupts the educational process, and, moreover, those of you planning to enter law school might as well get accustomed early to the realities that you will later encounter. I will look equally askance at early departures, though I will not bar exit to the less disciplined among you, though I promise to end promptly or earlier as long as all of you arrive on time. I expect to call upon students at random in class to answer questions about the subject or to seek voluntary student responses to questions that I raise.

Attendance at discussion sections will be absolutely mandatory, and TAs will take weekly attendance. TAs will organize and conduct the sections in a manner that elicits the greatest student participation. Student participation, assuming that it is regular, intelligent, and constructive, will have a positive impact on final grades. Otherwise exceptional students, who behave like shrinking violets, will not be penalized for non-class participation provided that they attend regularly.

All students will take a midterm and a comprehensive final examination as well as participate in a special exercise that will involve individual and collective effort, oral and written performance. During the course of the semester we will explain in more detail the nature of the special exercise which will be based on the legal cases and appeals that came out of Florida in the year 2000 presidential election. You will be asked to read the legal briefs presented to various Florida and federal courts, the rulings enunciated by judges and justices, and to play the roles of legal advocates for candidates Gore and Bush as well as the judicial figures who ruled in these cases. We will provide you with detailed instructions about the exercise as well as a clear written statement about plagiarism and what constitutes it so that as you write your briefs, legal rulings, and other facets of the exercise you understand fully the difference between what others have written and done and what is your own individual or collective labor. The following three web- page sites should provide all, or nearly all, of the materials that you need to satisfy the requirements for this special exercise:


lexis-nexis-this is available directly through our library and its data-base collections. There you can locate all the Florida appellate and high court decisions and materials. The midterm will count as 30% of the final grade, the essay as 35%, and the final examination as 35%. Class participation or its lack will raise or lower final grades except in the case of exceptional straight A students.

Last Updated: 8/12/16