Paul L. Caron

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Delgado: Groundhog Law

Richard Delgado (Alabama; Google Scholar), Groundhog Law, 21 J.L. Society 1 (2021):

Is law an academic discipline like chemistry, history, or English that belongs on a university campus? Rodrigo and the professor discuss an innocent question by a conference attender who wanted to know why legal knowledge never seems to advance. Rodrigo and the professor are struck by how legal scholarship fails to pass law-review muster unless each statement comes accompanied by a footnote reference to a past writer who said exactly the same thing. They ponder the ways this mindset resembles Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and the movie Groundhog Day.

An unexpected question from a conference participant sends Rodrigo in search of the professor's counsel. A young stranger from another discipline had asked him why law seems never to advance and posited that the reason may be that, lone among disciplines, law is uninterested in advancing human knowledge. The questioner even raised the possibility that law may not belong on a university campus along with departments such as Physics, English, and History, and might well consider relocating to community colleges where it would find a disciplinary home along with courses on welding, automobile mechanics, and high-speed cooking. 

Rodrigo, who at the time had found himself able to muster only a feeble reply, seeks a better defense of his discipline. In particular, he was struck by the stranger's observation that law is the only academic field where it is a positive attribute to say exactly what someone else said earlier.

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