Tuesday, August 27, 2019
I have a short piece, posted at Public Discourse, with "some thoughts for new law students." Comments and reactions welcome! Here's a taste:
With apologies to Douglas Adams, this is the “meaning of life, the universe, and everything” Layer. Here, we ask not only about the “legislative intent” underlying a particular provision, but also about, for example, “who and what we are, what we were made for, and why it might matter.” Layer Four is where we think about not only the most efficient default rules and the “cheapest cost avoiders,” but also about the nature and destiny of the human person, and the connection between our human nature and the legal enterprise. St. Augustine famously wrote that “you have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” This is a fact about us. We need to ask, “what differences does this fact make?” What does it mean for the law, and for lawyering, that we have, as C.S. Lewis suggested, a “God-shaped hole”?
We have traveled a long way from learning to report the implications of a fee simple or to recite the Model Penal Code’s hierarchy of culpable mental states. At the end of the day, it all comes down to Layer Four. Whether we realize it or not, this is where “the law” is. Yes, some law schools, teachers, judges, and scholars will insist or pretend otherwise; some will propose that the law in fact is, and must be, “neutral” with respect to Layer Four matters. However, it cannot, and should not, be.