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Harry Potter and the Law


Timothy S. Hall


University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Jeffrey E. Thomas


University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

Danaya C. Wright


University of Florida Levin College of Law

James Charles Smith


University of Georgia Law School

Aaron Schwabach


Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Joel Fishman


Duquesne University

Daniel Austin Green


John Templeton Foundation

Andrew P. Morriss


Texas A&M School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Benjamin H. Barton


University of Tennessee College of Law


Texas Wesleyan Law Review, 2006
TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 829344
University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2007-05

Abstract:     
The magnitude of the Harry Potter phenomenon alone would make it worthy of consideration; the fact that it is children's literature, and thus may play a significant part in forming a future generation's attitudes toward law and legal institutions, makes it even more so. The various contributions to this article explore various aspects of law and culture as presented in or viewed through the Harry Potter stories. The contributions of James Charles Smith and Danaya Wright address the depiction of families in the narratives and the limited role and development of family law. Benjamin H. Barton's contribution considers the failings of the formal source of legal authority in Harry's world, the deeply-flawed Ministry of Magic. Particular flaws are examined in the two subsequent contributions: Aaron Schwabach looks at the operation of the legal system through the lens of the unforgivable curses and contends that they show an arbitrariness contrary to the rule of law, while Joel Fishman explores the arbitrariness of punishment in the narratives. James Charles Smith's contribution explores ambiguities in the legal status and wizarding conventions applicable to house-elves, while Daniel Austin Green's contribution uses the narratives to explore the roles of excuse and justification in their relationship with legal authority and rule of law.

Timothy S. Hall's contribution shows how the rule used to free Dobby the house elf can be used as a pedagogical tool to illustrate the importance of intent in contract law, while Jeffrey E. Thomas's contribution suggests that the negative and satirical depictions of law and legal institutions helps readers to focus on the importance of individual accountability in making moral decisions. Andrew Morriss's contribution addresses the centrality of individual moral choice to the Harry Potter novels, particularly The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire. The final entry, also by Timothy S. Hall, compares the Harry Potter narratives to the Dick Whittington story, showing an interesting cultural evolution from Tudor to modern times.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Children's literature, cultural studies, Harry Potter, humor, humorous, interdisciplinary, fantasy, law & literature, law & popular culture

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Date posted: October 25, 2005 ; Last revised: October 21, 2008

Suggested Citation

Hall, Timothy S. and Thomas, Jeffrey E. and Wright, Danaya C. and Smith, James Charles and Schwabach, Aaron and Fishman, Joel and Green, Daniel Austin and Morriss, Andrew P. and Barton, Benjamin H., Harry Potter and the Law. Texas Wesleyan Law Review, 2006; TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 829344; University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2007-05. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=829344

Contact Information

Timothy S. Hall
University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )
Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
Jeffrey E. Thomas
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law ( email )
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States
Danaya C. Wright
University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352-392-5004 (Phone)
352-392-3005 (Fax)
James Charles Smith
University of Georgia Law School ( email )
Athens, GA 30602
United States

Aaron Schwabach (Contact Author)
Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )
1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4304 (Phone)

Joel Fishman
Duquesne University ( email )
600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States
Daniel Austin Green
John Templeton Foundation ( email )
300 Conshohocken State Road
Suite 500
West Conshohocken, PA 19428
United States
Andrew P. Morriss
Texas A&M School of Law ( email )
1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76133
United States
PERC - Property and Environment Research Center ( email )
2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States
George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )
3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
Benjamin H. Barton
University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )
1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
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