Roundtable: you’ve done a lot of work in the field of health law, so what is it specifically about that that attracted you to health law?
Theodore Ruger: Well, obviously as Dean of the law school, I think many areas of the law are fascinating and always changing. But I think particularly with health law, it’s an area of law that obviously impacts people’s lives dramatically. And it is so connected with developments in, so health law is connected with developments in the medical sphere, in the health insurance and policy sphere. So it really is a great lens by which to look at the way law is impacted by economic and political trends and in turn law shapes interactions that have real impact on people’s lives. Another thing that fascinates me with health law is it’s a product of every aspect of the US legal system. So health law is created by the Federal Government and the State Government. It’s created by courts and legislatures, administrative agencies and private negotiations. So when we look at legal change in the health law range, we are seeing the full breadths of legal institutions that we study. There are some areas of law that may be we just look to the Supreme Court, or we just look to Congress, but with health law because it’s both a statutory and a common law topic, because it’s a federal and a state law topic, we really see a lot of institutional variations, and that itself is very interesting.
Anna: What course do you teach at Penn?
Penny Ellison: Animal Law and Ethics
A: What’s the class about?
PE: It’s about animals in all aspects that we use and come in contact with. So, we go through all the federal and state laws that apply to animals in different contexts, whether it be domestic animals, agricultural animals, animals that are used in labs, animals that perform in circuses, all of those things. So, we talk about what law is out there and why it protects the animals, and from an ethical perspective, we also get to philosophy and ethics as applied to animals.
The Penn Undergraduate Law Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Penn Law’s Kermit Roosevelt, a professor of constitutional law, a novelist, and a member of the Roosevelt family.
Penn Undergraduate Law Journal: How did you come to teach at Penn Law?
Kermit Roosevelt: Well, I was always interested in teaching, from when I was in college and was trying to decide actually whether to go into philosophy graduate school or go to law school. In both of those cases, I was thinking about teaching and my parents talked me into going to law school. Because, they said it’s a faster path into teaching. Because, it takes you longer to get a PhD than a JD and it’s easier to get a teaching job in a law school than a Philosophy Department. Which I think is true. And if you do get that job, they'll pay you better and you’ll be working on issues that affect people’s lives, that people care about, that are socially relevant. And if you don’t get a job, you’ll have a degree that’s worth something. Whereas, if you get your philosophy PhD and you don’t get that philosophy teaching job your philosophy PhD isn’t opening up a lot of other doors for you. So, I was always interested in teaching and what that meant really was that while I was in law school, I was writing a lot of papers in trying to publish.
When I got to the school it was actually a bit of an adjustment. Because I was trying to approach it like philosophy graduate school and law has different concerns than philosophy. So, my first year of Law School, I was very unhappy and I was going to drop out and go get a philosophy PhD instead or maybe do a joint degree or something like that. But I actually took the GRE and I applied to graduate schools. I was accepted and I was going to fill out my leave of absence form at my law school but then I slept too late and missed the deadline on a Friday and that weekend I went out and met some girl and decided I would stay. In some ways my life turned on a random twist at that moment but it was all for the best I think.
The Penn Undergraduate Law Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Stephanos Bibas, a regarded legal scholar and professor at Penn Law. We discussed his research into modern criminal defense proceedings and the cases he’s recently argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Penn Undergraduate Law Journal: You were a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York before you began teaching at Penn. What made you decide to make the shift into academia?
Stephanos Bibas: I had been interested in teaching for some time, but I wanted to get some experience so that I had something worth teaching and writing about. Even just some time in the trenches completely changed my view of the world. What I’d been looking for was something worth saying, and what struck me was the gap between what I learned in law school, which was all about jury trials, and then the real world, in which almost all cases are plea bargained. That disconnect between what the Supreme Court, where I was clerking, was talking about, and where there was a world that was very different, that was 95% plea bargaining, gave me something important to critique about the shape of the law and about how the court and older generations didn’t understand the import of modern sentencing law and sentencing guidelines. That made it very different from the theory that I had learned in law school.
The Penn Undergraduate Law Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Mitchell Berman, a regarded legal scholar and professor at Penn Law. We discussed his work on the philosophy of law and his research into the jurisprudence of sports.
Penn Undergraduate Law Journal: What attracted you to the philosophy of law, and what is your particular area of interest in the field?
Mitchell Berman: Philosophy of law is pretty broad. Traditionally, the central concern in legal philosophy has been, “What is law?” or “What is the nature of law?” Another major topic is sometimes called the problem of political obligation. It asks whether we have a moral obligation to obey the laws. I have written very little on these fundamental topics.
My first interests in law and legal theory were in constitutional law and criminal law. I’m interested in both of these areas because of the normative problems that they raise. Of course, criminal law implicates in obvious and straightforward ways questions regarding the relationship between the individual and the state. It concerns the application of the state’s overwhelming physical force against the individual. Criminal law therefore invites us to ask a host of questions about the moral justifiability of state practices.