Rostam J. Neuwirth, University of Macau, Faculty of Law, E32, has published Law and Magic: A(nother) Paradox? at 37 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 139 (2014). Here is the abstract.
In the past, paradoxes and similar rhetorical figures that are summarized by the term “essentially oxymoronic concepts”, have been frequently applied to describe mystical experiences or, more generally, “change” that represents the uncertain or the unknown. Thus, their usage has primarily been a privilege of the arts, literature or the occult sciences. Today, however, essentially oxymoronic concepts are increasingly permeating scientific, legal and other public discourses as much as advertisements or daily conversations. Concepts like “globalization paradox”, “co-opetition”, and “piracy paradox”, products labeled “ice tea” and “Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)”, and films entitled “True Lies”, are just a few examples that testify to this wider trend. Their usage appears especially prevalent in attempts to scientifically describe and understand the often complex relations between two or more different phenomena or fields. In this regard, the relation between law and magic may be no exception, as it can also be framed by, or gives rise to, several paradoxes. For instance, in early history, and later, in the context of colonialism, laws have often outlawed magic as “witchcraft” or “charlatanry”, based on the belief that their character is irrational, as opposed to the rational character of the law. Paradoxically though, contemporary laws and legal practice still maintain a high degree of rites, rituals and rhetoric, similar to those that have been applied in magic. Similarly, as Jerome Frank has remarked, despite the law’s focus on certainty, it striking to see how often “magical phrases” are used in its language. The apparent contradictions in the nature and language of the law are therefore taken as an opportunity to cast some light on various issues that link law and magic in order to gain some insights about the nature, origin, and role of law generally.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. The article forms part of the conference papers from the Law and Magic symposium held at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, June 2014.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, defendant Abu-Bakr Abdur Rahman has had two run-ins this month with local judge Talmage Baggett over Mr. Rahman's Vodun beads. The judge objects to Mr. Rahman's wearing of the beads in court. In early July, Judge Baggett locked Mr. Rahman up for refusing to remove the beads after his honor told him to. Mr. Rahman said the beads represented his religion. Here is part of the transcript of their discussion over the beads (from the ABA Journal).
BAGGETT: You’re going to have to do better than this. I can’t have that in the courtroom.
RAHMAN: First Amendment—
BAGGETT: I don’t allow other people to get away with it. I’m not going to allow you to have a mess around your neck like that.
RAHMAN: The First Amendment guarantees me the right to free religion. If you lock up my religion—
BAGGETT: Sir, get outside, and either put it in or leave. That is your choice. Or come to the prisoners box. Now which would you rather do?
RAHMAN: You’re discriminating against my religion.
BAGGETT: I don’t know of any religion that requires you to wear this kind of stuff around your neck. I’m not familiar with your religion. I respect anybody’s religion, but get it off. … I’ll let you practice your religion right over here in the box.
On July 16, Mr. Rahman returned to court and the two squared off again, the judge again telling the defendant to hide his beads under his shirt or leave the court, and Mr. Rahman refusing. Finally, Judge Baggett assigned the case to a different judge.
Said Mr. Rahman of the judge, "He's abusing his chair and he needs to be out of office. He's abusing it." The judge had no comment.
The judge now in charge of the case, Lou Olivera, has no problem with the beads, or, one would presume, with any other religious symbols worn around the neck or on the person. As UNC professor of government Michael Crowell points out, if a party's dress seems to represent religious beliefs and the court is concerned about it, the court should inquire further. If the dress "is not clearly disruptive, it should be allowed."
Mr. Rahman is reported to be considering legal action. More here from the Fayetteville Observer (online).
Reacting to the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in King v. Burwell, Senator Ted Cruz proclaimed,
Today, these robed Houdinis have transmogrified a federal exchange into an exchange, quote, 'established by the State...This is lawless. As Justice [Antonin] Scalia rightfully put it, without objection, words no longer have meaning.
Since Justice Scalia has referred to the statute as "SCOTUScare" (or SCOTU-scare, depending on how you want to read it), scare-y, magic, Hallowe'en-y language seems to be the order of the day. Carre-y on.
For the New York Times, Michael Wilson interviews long-time New York City detective Michael McFadden on the subject of psychics, people who visit psychics, and the reasons they visit them. Writes Mr. Wilson,
In fairness to honest psychics, [Detective McFadden] did not suggest that every psychic has criminal intent. But he knows more about the ones who do.
He said fraud schemes like the one Ms. Delmaro is accused of running were not uncommon, and probably more widespread than anyone knew — although they typically involved smaller amounts. Victims feel duped and ashamed and don’t always come forward.
There are three types of people who approach a psychic, Detective McFadden said.
“You’re curious, you’ve never done it,” he said. Or a group of friends go together, for fun. “It’s a goof,” he said.
“And then you have people who are in crisis,” he said. “They’re very vulnerable.” A disreputable psychic latches onto this customer, promising aid and urging a follow-up visit.
An earlier article discussed the particular case of a Manhattan man who visited Ms. Delmaro, whom he says defrauded him eventually of more than $700,000 after promising him that the woman he loved would return his affection. She died sometime during the period that Ms. Delmaro was providing psychic services. The man finally sought the assistance of a private detective, then went to police, after he lost his job and his money. Police arrested Ms. Delmaro, and she is now awaiting trial on grand larceny charges. She denies the accusations.
From the mailbox: I've received a copy, courtesy of the authors and publisher, of the wonderful Droit et surnaturel (Issy-les-Moulineaux: lextenso, 2015), edited by Jean-Christophe Roda, a professor of law at the University of Aix-Marseille. This volume collects the papers from a conference held jointly by the University of Aix-Marseille, Centre de Droit economique and the School of Law, University of Aix-en-Provence, September 27, 2013.
It contains 2 introductory surveys and 10 essays by leading scholars on various areas in the subject of law and magic: here's what it contains--law and exorcism, by Herve Lecuyer of the University of Paris II, the supernatural and contract law, by Frederic Buy, of the University of the Auvergne and Marie Lamoureux, of the University of Aix-Marseille, criminal law and the supernatural, by Philippe Bonfils, of the University of Aix-Marseille, occultisme and family law, by Vincent Egea, of the University of Toulon, belief and civil responsibility, by Julien Theron of the University of Toulouse-I, magic and IP, by Nicolas Bronzo, of the University of Aix-Marseille, and numerology and symbolism in the Code of Civil Procedure by Emmanuel Putman of the University of Aix-Marseille (I have to show that one to my civil law colleagues here at LSU--well, I have to share the whole book with my civil law colleagues, frankly), witchcraft law three hundred years after Salem, by Jean-Christophe Roda, of the University of Aix-Marseille, and law and sorcery by Louis-Daniel Muka Tshibende of the Catholic University of Lyon. There is also a concluding essay by Remy Cabrillac of the Faculty of Law, University of Montpellier.
A treasure trove of scholarly writing on this subject.
The phenomena described above are “low-level” illusions that are probably based on “bottom-up” sensory signals from brain cells in the visual system that are specialized to detect motion. Normally, sensory information agrees. If a cat is partly hidden behind a tree, for example, all the cues of color, shadows, and texture tell the same story—that the hidden part of the cat exists out of view behind the tree. The brain acts like a judge, confirming the same story as told by independent witnesses. The brain also strengthens this verdict with “top-down” information based upon prior learning: if the cat’s whiskers stick out on one side of the tree, and its tail on the other, the brain automatically “fills in” that there is a continuous cat partly hidden by the tree, not two unrelated cat bits. This interpolation process, called visual amodal completion, starts from a representation of the visible features of the stimulus in early visual cortex, probably an area called V1, and ends with a completed representation of the stimulus in the inferior temporal cortex.9 Jay Hegdé of the University of Minnesota and colleagues even found two regions in the object-processing pathways of t
While Dr. Anstis' research interests lie in visual perception, we can certainly apply his insights to witness evidence. Did that eyewitness see what she thinks she saw?
By what power or authority an assembly undertakes to make paper money is difficult to say. It derives none from the constitution, for that is silent on the subject. It is one of those things which the people have not delegated, and which, were they at any time assembled together, they would not delegate. It is, therefore, an assumption of power which an assembly is not warranted in, and which may one day or other be the means of bringing some of them to punishment.
One of the evils of paper money is that it turns the whole country into stockjobbers. The precariousness of its value and the uncertainty of its fate continually operate night and day to produce this destructive effect. Having no real value in itself, it depends for support upon accident, caprice, and party, and as it is the interest of some to depreciate and of others to raise its value, there is a continual invention going on that destroys the morals of the country.
It was horrid to see, and hurtful to recollect, how loose the principles of justice were let, by means of the paper emissions during the war. The experience then had should be a warning to any assembly how they venture to open such a dangerous door again.