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February 07, 2011


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Bill Turnier

Perhaps the early 20th, late 19th, century emphasis on cases may have something to do with the coming of Langdell's case method. Christopher Columbus ( you either hat or love that name) Langdell first used it in 1870 and it slowly spread to other law schools from then.

Alfred Brophy

Really interesting suggestion, Bill. I think that the emphasis on cases in law school probably has a lot to do with how we think about "Constitutional law." When "constitutional law" is taught by historians and political scientists, I would imagine they were a lot more willing to look beyond cases than we are in law school. And maybe that accounts for much of the change. I guess the switch is also partly due to the increasing focus on the Supreme Court as an arbiter of issues? The question, then, is why that change....

Bill Turnier

Al, again the change in legal education with it's emphasis on cases in general, as opposed to Blackstone (and other authorities) and black letter law principles may to some degree account for the emerging primacy of the judiciary in late 19th century America. Daniel Boorstin has a nice essay on how Blackstone aided in creating a modified uniformity in the law with judges and lawyers on the frontier having little else to go by. Blackstone's Commentaries had the advantage of fitting in a saddle pack thus making them pretty accessible to frontier lawyer and judge alike. I presume that one also needed a more stable and prosperous environment before we could use libraries to consult cases in all but the cities of the East Coast.

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