Monday, October 30, 2006

Harvard 1L Curriculum Reform: Tool of the Devil?

(Updated below.)

The law blogs are buzzing, in their refined, professorial way, about the recently announced 1L curriculum reforms at Harvard--adding a course in legislation/regulation, a course dealing with international law, and a course on legal problem solving. Law School Innovation calls it "wimpy"; notes that "none of the components is particularly innovative, in the sense that many law schools have added something like one of them to their curricula. If there’s anything distinctive about the Harvard revision, is that it does all three, and for the entire first year class rather than for one section (as at Georgetown), or as electives (as is true of the Regulatory State course in various incarnations)." The right-wing Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, however, sees decidedly sinister implications:

Some of America's leading law schools — Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan — are steeping first-year students in an education with a decidedly international bent.

Instead of establishing American basics of law like contracts and the Constitution, the schools are offering courses on global-law systems — in some cases before students are told about American law.

Harvard, for instance, modified its first-year curriculum to include global law because of the "imprint" the first year of study has on students. University officials argue that postponing classes on international law puts it in the category of an "add on."

That bothers David French, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

"To be honest, a lot of these colleges are very sympathetic with the leftist drift of international law," he told Family News in Focus. "And in the international legal community there aren't the same kind of civil rights that we have in the U.S."

Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said law schools are following the lead of liberal judges who increasingly look to foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

"We saw (Supreme Court) Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Lawrence v. Texas decision on sodomy look to Europe and some of the courts of human rights elsewhere to help him justify striking down a Texas law prohibiting sodomy," he said.

The shift is all part of getting future lawyers to think globally, Hausknecht added. Unfortunately, it's lessening their respect for the Constitution.

"There is no guidance to be taken from how foreign courts interpret their own constitutions or their own laws when it comes to interpreting our own," he said.
(Hat tip to AELR Blog.)

UPDATE: I don't know how I failed to make this connection earlier, but note this: As Roger Alford at Opinio Juris observes, Section 6 of the Military Commissions Act provides that the terms of the Act "fully satisfy the obligation under Article 129 of the Third Geneva Convention for the United States" and that "[n]o foreign or international source of law shall supply a basis for a rule of decision in the courts of the United States in interpreting the prohibitions enumerated"--in other words, U.S. courts are purportedly barred from considering international law in the interpretation of the Geneva Convention. Alford asks:
I am not aware of comparable legislation that limits the power of Courts to rely on particular source material in their interpretive process. It clearly reflects a conservative backlash against the movement toward international comparativism generally and Hamdan specifically. I would be curious if others know of similiar provisions in other legislation. Does this portend a similar approach with future legislation?

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Note that the link for the Military Commissions Act takes you to Thomas with a failed link. You can search Thomas with S.3930, and look at the version that passed both House and Senate and has been enrolled and engrossed.