Does the law act for or against «the people»? Who are «the people»? This collection of essays by philosophers, historians, legal scholars, and others examines these questions in historical perspective; in law and literature; in contemporary, advanced, and developing societies; and with respect to gender and economics. What «the law» does and ought to represent is viewed semiotically as a problem admitting of no definitive answer.
Both the Kevelson Seminar topic, ‘Lawyers as Makers of Meaning,’ and the appearance of a highly-publicized television series in the United States dedicated to the life of President John Adams (1735–1826) invite inquiry into Adams’ role as a lawyer who shaped the meaning of the American Revolution (and his role in bringing it about). Three trials from Adams’ early legal career illustrate that he presented both himself and fellow resistance leader James Otis, Jr., as heroic loners struggling for the rights (...) of Americans against British injustice. Although he did not call it that, in 1970 lawyer and future Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Hiller Zobel, in his book The Boston Massacre, undertook what we would consider a semiotic approach that investigated the relevant codes and contexts—both the legal complexities and the audiences, other lawyers, judges, and posterity about which Adams spoke, simplifying and minimizing their roles as he maximized his own (and Otis’s). Zobel’s own relationship with Adams’ legal career appeared in his own tenure on the bench, especially in the famous ‘Nanny’ (discussed by Denis Brion, in this issue) case in which he explicitly presented the Boston Massacre Trials as a relevant precedent. Despite Adams’ willingness to subordinate his clients’ welfare to the patriot cause early in his career, it can be argued that HBO television and historian David McCullough, by presenting him to the public only flawed by his outspoken, stubborn honesty, have nevertheless performed a public service. Their version of Adams offers Americans in the twenty-first century an alternative role model to the dishonest, ill-informed politicians who use public opinion polls rather than political theory, moral philosophy, and historical knowledge as the basis of their decisions. (shrink)
The Roberta Kevelson Seminar on Law and Semiotics is integrated in the regular program of a US Law School and student enrollment is honored with credit points. Hitherto, the study of Legal Semiotics has mainly been located outside the Law Schools in the US and the Faculties of Law in the EU. Two important questions within the more general theme of Legal Semiotics and Legal Education arose: (1) the program requirements in an education context, and (2) the attention and interests (...) of the students. This IJSL issue offers essays presented during the Round Table which closed the Seminar, provides some experience-based suggestions for a Seminar program and discusses how to deal with the pragmatic attitude of law students. It interests how those topics relate to legal and semiotic literature and how they focus globally important viewpoints, as can be concluded in the example of the legal semiotics of family structures. (shrink)