Duty To Rescue & Reasonable Person Test

By: Peter A. Lawrence Professor Rosenbaum has always expressed his disapproval of the duty to rescue, and rightfully so. Our society remains supportive of the idea that when one is in great danger, others should take all measures to help a fellow human in distress. However, the legal system punishes people who fail or exacerbate a situation while attempting to rescue those in distress. The relevance of this debate has arose recently when I review to similar incidents with different outcomes. US Airways Hudson River Plane Crash Incident: Chesley Sullenberger, a US Airway pilot, who successfully carried out the emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River offshore from Manhattan, New York, on January 15, 2009, thus preventing any loss of life. There were 155 people on the plane. The Pilot was praised, glorified, and lifted to a celebrity stage in our society for his heroic


On Happiness

By: Paul Riley In his 2006 book, Happiness: A History, Darrin McMahon argues that “[h]appiness, in the Enlightenment view was less an ideal of godlike perfection than a self-evident truth, to be pursued and obtained in the here and now.” Indeed, this was clearly the view of America’s Founding Fathers who stated in the Declaration of Independence that the “pursuit of happiness” was one of man’s “unalienable rights,” along with life and liberty. This view, McMahon explains, marked a dramatic change from, among others, the views of the Greeks who believed that happiness was not “a subjective state” but a “characterization of an entire life that can be reckoned only at death.” In other words, as McMahon puts it, happiness for the Greeks was less about feeling good than about being good. The Enlightenment view of happiness persists today, and this is especially so in America where the notions of


On Sydney Lumet

By: Eliyahu R. Babad Seemingly insignificant episodes from childhood can have an enormous impact upon adult life. I recently attended an “Evening with Sydney Lumet” at the 92nd Street Y moderated by Professor Rosenbaum. Lumet’s films often portray significant moral struggles that may have a foundation in his earlier life, particularly one episode that he shared. While discussing the Depression years in the 1930’s Lumet shared a story from his youth. Lumet and his friends were playing some sort of game involving pennies being thrown against a wall. They saw a policeman coming (I’m assuming they were doing something wrong though he didn’t specify what) and the boys ran away, leaving the pennies on the street. Then they watched as the policeman bent down and picked up the scattered pennies left by the children and then walked away. Even while representing law and justice, the policeman was caught in a


Lawyers as Actors

By: Valeria Castanaro During the 92nd St Y Event, “An Evening with Sideny Lumet”, Mr. Lumet made several insightful comments regarding the inspiration behind his vision in portraying the moral situations that unfold in his movies, most of which have to do with some kind of dilemma with the legal system.  I was unaware that prior to directing, Mr. Lumet was an actor, and it was a comment he made while discussing his decision to leave acting for directing that most stuck with me.  He said that he had to give up acting because it was just too hard for him to give so much fo himself to his work.  I think that it is easy for the public to forget that for those professionals for whom acting is truly an art, it is an exhausting profession becuase of the amount of self the actor has to devote to the


“Gran Torino” and Injustice

By Nicole In “Gran Torino,” Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, is an unhappy, tough, and prejudiced Korean War veteran who is disgusted with the shifting landscape of his Detroit neighborhood from primarily white “American” families to more recent immigrant Asian families.  After Thao, the teenage son of the Asian family next door, tries to steal Walt’s beloved Gran Torino as the result of gang pressure, Thao works for Walt to regain his family’s honor by making reparations in the form of physical labor. Walt forms an unlikely and close bond with Thao and his family.  Throughout the film, the gang tries to force Thao to join them.  Ultimately, when Thao continues to reject the gang, its members rape and assault Thao’s sister and drive by the family’s home firing guns at it.  Ultimately, Walt sacrifices his own life to ensure that the gang members will be charged with murder


An Evening with Sidney Lumet

This past week I attended “An Evening with Sidney Lumet” at the 92nd Street Y.  Throughout the evening, Mr. Lumet discussed some of the common themes which weave through his great works, including those relating to moral lapses of judgment.  Mr. Lumet, through many of his fifty works of cinematic art, told the audience stories of desperate characters being placed in impossible situations. While discussing “Dog Day Afternoon,” Mr. Lumet told an interesting antidote tying these themes into his childhood experiences. At an early age, Mr. Lumet explained that he learned that there is a moral code not to squeal and not to rat.  This concept hit me hard.  Having always been interested in the area of criminal law, I have reflected on this statement for the past week.  Our American criminal justice system is centered on this idea that people will rat one another out to save themselves.  Therefore,


On Sidney Lumet

By: Allegra Leitner At the Sidney Lumet event on January 28th, Professor Rosenbaum asked Mr. Lumet why, throughout his career as a director, he has been drawn to making films that are centered around the law.  Mr. Lumet responded with, “Because it’s easy!”  He went on to talk about the built in conflict of the legal system and how it provides the ideal “good guy versus bad guy” setting.  His film The Verdict, for example, pits a woman who is brain dead against the hospital that has made her that way and is trying to cover its tracks.  The inherent drama built into the legal system makes it a popular setting for much of our society’s cultural media today.  It is portrayed in film, from Mr. Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men to the more recent Michael Clayton, television dramas like Law and Order and Boston Legal, and even in reality television


In the Courtroom with Halo 3

By: Lauren Manduke One year ago, a 16 year old boy form Ohio shot both his mother and father in the head with a 9mm gun after they banned him from playing the video game, Halo 3.  Daniel Petric, now 17 years old, is awaiting his verdict.  He is charged with aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and related offenses in the shooting death of his mother and shooting of his father (who survived). If convicted, Petric could be sentenced to life in prison with a parole eligibility date that would be determined based on the offenses. He is not eligible for the death penalty because of his age. Petric’s attorney argued that Petric was addicted to video games and that Halo 3 and video games of like nature had warped Petric’s sense of reality to the point that Petric could not comprehend that his parents would permanently die.  Petric’s attorney


On "24"

By: Ian Millican The popular television series “24″ examines the disconnect between law and justice, albeit in a very skewed, arguably neoconservative manner. Keefer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, the show’s Christ-like superhero, who in each season sacrifices himself to save the United States from an imminent terrorist attack.  Each episode of a season represents one “real time” hour of a day.  There are twenty-four episodes in each season. Throughout the series, Bauer’s wife is murdered, he becomes addicted to heroine while infiltrating a Mexican drug cartel, he fakes his own death and forsakes everything and everyone he knows and holds close, and he is detained and tortured by the Chinese government, to name a few sacrifices he’s made in the line of duty.  I think he even dies for a few minutes in one episode.  For six seasons, Bauer has successfully saved the United States from catastrophe. Nevertheless, the seventh


Humiliation as Punishment

By: Steven Penaro When asked what a person’s greatest fear is most Americans will tell you that it is a fear of public speaking.  When asked why that is their greatest fear, most people will tell you that they don’t want to be embarrassed or feel humiliated in front of their peers.  If embarrassment and humiliation has such a profound affect on the psyches of individuals, why is this not a remedy used in American courts?  I realize that some legal punishments play off this notion.  For example, registered sex offenders are often required to alert the people in their neighborhood that they have committed a sexual offense.  Why not incorporate this logic into frauds on Wall Street, professional scam artists, or corrupt government officials?  Imagine getting a message from a new neighbor saying that he has defrauded the public out of millions of dollars.  If that were a punishment,