Your Halloween Legal Fact of the Week

Ian Pilarczyk, the director of the Executive LL.M. in International Business Law, started publishing historic legal facts back in February of 2008. Dr. Pilarczyk, who specializes in legal history and comparative law, explains the idiosyncrasies of the law through looking back at the historical context of the more curious and sometimes hard to believe legal facts.

Below is a sampling of Dr. Pilarczyk’s weekly legal facts, beginning (in honor of Halloween) with “Suing Satan!”.

Suing Satan!

GustaveDoreParadiseLostSatanProfileIn 1971 a plaintiff filed a pauper’s suit in U.S. District Court, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated, against Satan and his servants. Plaintiff alleged that Satan had “threatened him, caused him misery, impeded his course in life, and generally precipitated his downfall”.

His suit was unsuccessful, the court denying him relief on the grounds that … [read more…]


The Origins of “Passing the Bar”bar

One question that I am asked from time to time has to do with the origins of the expression “passing the bar”. A common assumption is that there is some connection with admission to the legal profession and the ancient relationship between lawyers and taverns.

This has some plausibility as courts in the medieval and Elizabethean eras were not infrequently held in public places, including taverns (but also including churches, town and meeting halls, and the like). However much the public may enjoy the putative connection between the legal profession and alcoholic libations, however, this is not the true origin of the term. [read more…]



scoffThe word scofflaw, while often thought to be of ancient origin, was actually created through a contest held in 1921. A wealthy banker in Quincy, MA sponsored a contest offering $200 to anyone who coined a word to describe people who violated Prohibition.

The winning entry met with nearly-universal disapproval, and was satirized in cartoons appearing in the New York Tribune–which ironically gave it a national audience. [read more…]


csiThe CSI Effect

The so-called CSI Effect–named after the hit TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its progeny–refers to the theory that these shows have an impact on real juries in criminal cases.

In them, highly-trained lab specialists with limitless budgets and the newest technology find a great deal of trace and other evidence that they able to quickly, reliably and objectively analyze to identify the guilty culprit, because “the evidence never lies.” [read more…]

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