Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener (complaint) and the Liberty Justice Center. The case is now on appeal in the First Circuit as no. 22-1466 (PACER paywall). Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.
Showing posts with label customary law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label customary law. Show all posts

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Experts enrich comparative law class

Jarosiński
Teaching Comparative Law is everything that makes teaching great.  It's an impossible job, because no one is expert in law the world over, so the course can be daunting to teachers and students alike.  But the challenge is best undertaken as an opportunity to explore.  The joy of teaching Comparative Law for me and my wife, who serves as a law librarian embedded in the course, is that every time, current events and our students' range of interests lead us down new paths.

We wrestle with the problem of what we don't know by consulting experts.  This semester, as in past semesters, we were privileged to have had our class enriched by the knowledge and experience of some stars in legal practice and academics.  In order of appearance...

Liu
Attorney Wojciech Jarosiński, LL.M. (on this blog), of the Maruta law firm, stayed up late to join us from Warsaw, Poland.  To give us the perspective of a lawyer working in the civil law tradition, he led the class in examining judicial reception of a U.S. punitive damages award in Poland, and then in considering common law and civil law differences in the context of transnational contracting.

Professor Chenglin Liu, St. Mary’s University School of Law, joined from post-freeze Texas to talk about the Chinese response to covid-19.  Professor Liu wrote about the Chinese response to SARS in 2005 in a work that the pandemic rendered newly salient.  A fellow torts teacher, Professor Liu also indulged student questions around U.S. states' suits against the PRC and the implications for Biden Administration diplomacy.

Reda
Professor Danya Reda, UMass Law, treated our class to an introduction to Islamic Law.  Also a fellow torts teacher, Professor Reda teaches an upper-level class on Islamic Law.  Before returning to the United States full time, Professor Reda taught at Peking University School of Transnational Law. Her research examines court reform in global perspective.

Mnisi Weeks
Professor Sindiso Mnisi Weeks, UMass Boston, led the class in a lively discussion of South Africa.  She generously shared her latest research findings on marriage and land rights in customary and contemporary law.  Besides a doctoral degree from Oxford, Professor Mnisi Weeks holds a law degree from the University of Cape Town, home to the renowned Centre for Comparative Law in Africa.  She serves UMass Boston in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development.

Wortham
Professor Leah Wortham, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, joined us to talk about the unfolding crisis over judicial independence in Poland.  With Professor Fryderyk Zoll, Jagiellonian University, Professor Wortham published the definitive treatment of the subject in 2019.  The matter has become only more complicated and more concerning, both within Poland and between Poland and the EU, in the years since.

Our thanks to Attorney Jarosiński and Professors Liu, Reda, Mnisi Weeks, and Wortham for contributing to a stellar semester's experience.  Watch this blog for a report in May on the students' final papers.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Customary law undergirds justice systems in Africa: A-courting in Harare

Outside the "Harare Civil Court" buildings, a discarded sign reads, "Harare Magistrate's Court / Civil and Customary Law." Other court building in Harare are pictured below. All photos RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0.
The integration of customary law into national legal systems based on post-colonial polities is a challenge, and an opportunity, throughout Africa. I wrote recently about customary legal authority in the Casamance region of Senegal, and Zimbabwe is no exception to the norm.

The Zimbabwe constitution expressly preserves customary law, and federal enactments spell out the scope of customary law in sensitive areas, such as marriage and child care. The constitution creates customary courts and charges other courts, including the Supreme Court, with respecting and developing customary law, just as they do common law. For NYU Law GlobaLex, Saki and Chiware (updated by Pfumorodze and Chitsove, 2017) further explained:
The main reason for the existence of these customary law courts is to provide a justice system to ordinary people in rural areas which is consistent with African custom and values.  It is  realized that most ordinary Zimbabweans regulate their lives in accordance with customary law to the extent that the legal ideas and institutions inherited from the system has  preserved the authority of traditional leaders  to adjudicate in civil disputes by customary law.
In Zimbabwe, customary courts have jurisdiction over civil, but not criminal, matters. Common law controls in the civil sphere, while criminal law is strictly codified in Zimbabwe's mixed system.
Scales of justice adorn a high court building where criminal cases are heard.
Jehovah's Witnesses occupy the walk outside the characteristically modest legal aid office.

Your humble blogger stands before the highest court('s house) in the land.
Constitutional Court.





Monday, February 24, 2020

Oussouye king applies customary law in Senegal

The king and his attendants in the sacred woods. All photos RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0.
The king of Oussouye in the Casamance region of Senegal received me with my group earlier this week. The Oussouye are part of the Diola, or Jola, ethnic group, who populate a vast transnational area reaching from Gambia to Guinea-Bissau. Diola also span religious faiths, having Islamic and Christian adherents, though traditional African religious tenets run strong in tandem with colonial imports. The Oussouye tend especially to traditional faith.

The king dispenses justice in both criminal matters and civil disputes in Oussouye. Civil matters cover a broad range, from real and personal property, to domestic relations, to obligations. The king also operates a local social welfare system, growing a quantity of food to support needy members of the community.

Typical of the manner in which customary and "modern" law are integrated within African countries, the king exercises a jurisdiction of first instance. He explained that if someone takes a matter to the police or the courts of Senegal, the authorities will ask whether the complainant has yet consulted the king, and will refuse the matter if not. This system does not fully obviate conflict, as questions arise over when the national legal system should take precedence--especially in high-profile cases implicating human rights, including non-discrimination and the rights of children. But the great bulk of dispute resolution is managed uneventfully upon traditional principles.

Chosen according to a spiritual calling, not lineal heritage, the king is said to be supernaturally endowed with wisdom, notwithstanding a lack of formal training. The Oussouye king readily said that he had been a mechanic before the spirit moved him toward his royal role.

Oussouye kids head home from school.






Traditional impluvium house.
Local chief in the center of impluvium house.

Evidence abounds of Chinese investment in the Casamance region.