Orcas and the Thirteenth Amendment

This last week, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that SeaWorld’s captivity and exploitation of five wild-captured orcas, or so-called killer whales, amounts to slavery and involuntary servitude in violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The nominal plaintiffs are the orcas themselves—Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises—although the suit is technically being brought by PETA and several individuals.  The complaint seeks “an injunction freeing [the orcas] from Defendants’ bondage and placing them in a habitat suited to their individual needs and best interests.”

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The Supreme Court and the Fate of the Ministerial Exception

In 1999, Cheryl Perich began service as a lay teacher at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan.  A year later, she became a “called teacher,” selected by the congregation to serve as a commissioned minister and charged with duties of a more pastoral nature, such as teaching religion classes, leading the students in devotional exercises, and participating in weekly chapel functions, though continuing to teach predominantly secular subjects.

In June 2004, however, Perich developed symptoms of a medical disorder, eventually diagnosed as narcolepsy. Despite obtaining in February 2005 a doctor’s certification of her ability to return to work, the school had already made alternative arrangements and proposed that she resign her call. After she threatened legal action for alleged disability discrimination, the congregation then rescinded her call and she was duly terminated from her teaching position at the school.

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The Rise of Interdisciplinary Legal Education

[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors.  This is the fourth in the series.]

Since 1995, when I first joined Marquette’s law faculty, one of the most obvious changes I have witnessed has been an increase in the interdisciplinary nature of legal scholarship and, not uncoincidentally I believe, the number of interdisciplinary (“law and”) courses that law schools, including Marquette, offer their students.  Certainly these trends were on the rise before 1995, but their present pervasiveness across law school faculties and curricula seems to me to mark a cumulatively significant change.

This development likely has multiple causes.  The influx into law faculties of those holding doctoral degrees in other fields, noted recently by Professor Hylton, is certainly one, although the ready susceptibility of law or legal topics to analysis by these other disciplines suggests that other factors are at work.  One haunting explanation, of course, is that law is perhaps not a genuinely autonomous discipline after all, but rather little more than the procedure-laden application of independent fields of knowledge to the prevention and resolution of conflict.

Whatever its causes, this development likely has also generated multiple consequences, some of which might be seen as benefits, others as costs. 

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