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Richard Keyser

This summer, I revamped my American Legal History to 1860 class (LS 450). One of the aspects of early American legal history that most interests students is the contrast between the idealistic rights language of the Revolutionary period and the stark reality of racial and gender inequality in a period that accepted slavery and women’s subordination with little dissent. In order to address this student interest more directly, I am adding readings on how the idea of “human rights” developed out of the French and British Enlightenments in the 18th century. The emergence of an ideology of human rights helps to explain the transition from the seventeenth-century idea of rule by the people (“popular sovereignty”) to the nineteenth-century conflict over slavery that almost spelled the end of the early American Republic.

I also brushed up on my knowledge of the Renaissance to prepare for a class I’m teaching in the History Department this fall. This formative period provides invaluable background for the American colonial period, and thus should make a nice pairing with the other class I’m teaching this fall, American Legal History to 1860 (Legal Studies 450).

Alan Rubel

I began work as a Senior Research Associate to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Biomedical Issues over the summer. In this role, I will contribute research for the Commission regarding individual privacy in the context of genomic research. I also continue to work on issues related to public health surveillance, security and law enforcement surveillance, and the effects of electronic resources (such as e-books) on reader privacy in public libraries.

Alexandra Huneeus

I am currently reading up on why states comply with the rulings of international courts. Often we speak of international courts as mechanisms to enforce international law. But the irony is, as Alexander Hamilton noted long ago, the judiciary “has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever." Indeed, international courts are arguably more singly reliant on the power of the pen than even their national counterparts.

National courts can be pretty certain the executive will send the police out to enforce rulings against reluctant losing parties. At the international level, states are similarly bound to enforce court decisions, but the enforcing state is also at the same time the losing party. In other words, it is the losing party - and not a third actor - that is under an obligation to enforce decisions against itself. This can be problematic, and people tend to make a big fuss about the fact that there is a lack of enforcement in international law.  But what often gets overlooked is that the same dynamic can arise in public law litigation at the national level: rulings against the government must be enforced by that very government.

Ralph Grunewald

I will be presenting at the meeting of the American Society of Criminology Nov. 14-17 in Chicago. Ever since I first came to Madison for my Master of Laws degree, I have had a strong interest not only in the causes of wrongful convictions but also in the processes that are in place (or not) to avoid them. In my talk, I present comparative ideas on the direct and indirect influences of appellate review on the truthfulness of the criminal trial. The role of factual truth (including its role in appellate review) in the American trial system is a chapter in the book I continue to work on.

I just finished an article in which I discuss how stories are told in court, particularly the stories of the wrongfully convicted. Story telling (or narrative analysis) has not been my focus so far, but through my class on Law and Literature I realized how important a topic it is, especially in a court system that invites parties to present their stories (and not have a judge look for the “true” story instead). There is a great amount of power in storytelling, I thought, because how else would somebody with no or little incriminating evidence end up in prison for decades? For my article I looked at trial transcripts of innocent defendants and analyzed how the stories of the innocent developed. That police, prosecutors and attorneys have a great amount of storytelling latitude is not the sole cause of wrongful convictions but it can be looked at as a catalyst of problems we are already aware of such as tunnel vision or mistaken eyewitness identification.