Recent events in Wisconsin where the legislature is proposing to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public employees and the protests that have been sparked in response hearkens to a discussion that I have with my students under the general introductory title, "What is Law?" I have reproduced below the closing slides from the Power Point presentation that accompanies the lecture/discussion. In my opinion, too often students see law as rigid rules that are written in stone by some unforseen unchallengable force. I grew tired over the years of hearing students say, "that is just the way it is" or "the court was just following the law" when responding to some perceived injustice. That is, students recognized an injustice, but complacently accepted it as an inevitable and unchangeable outcome of law. Perhaps I am too much a child of the 60's and 70's, but I think that an educated person needs a richer understanding of law. On a macro level, law is nothing more than what human beings say the law is - and therefore, there is never an immutable, unchangeable, and singularly proper application of law. It all rests on the interpretation of humans who make value judgments in the process. While any individual judge may feel bound by a rule of law in any particular case, that is rarely the last word on "the law." I believe in the power of law to structure society and in the ability of people to impact the shape of that structure - if they have the will.
2 What is Law slides