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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Museum of Tort Law

FeaturedtortcasesThe American Museum of Tort Law. I thought it was a joke when it started showing up in my Twitter feed (@TortMuseum). Imagine the exhibit possibilities: the firecrackers from Palsgraf, the chair pulled out from under Ruth Garratt, the shotguns from Summers v. Tice. It's just hard to picture. But it turns out the museum is real, Ralph Nader is its President, and it actually has a Corvair!

On top of that, it has a serious purpose. Its vision statement includes these goals:

  • Create and sustain a world-class facility that focuses on the rich historical legacy of Tort Law in American life and culture, inform people about the effect of Tort Law on their lives, and inspire a sense of future possibilities for the welfare of our society
  • Create a unique historical environment that fosters an appreciation of the intellectual rigor and community standards embodied in law
  • Show by example how ours is a nation of laws, and how Tort Law reflects the voice of the community

And to do that, the Museum "will be a unique mix of historic displays and engaging experiences that will illustrate the workings and effect of Tort Law.  Visitors will experience the ideas and decisions that go into the making of the law that defines the world in which we live." Exhibits might include great closing arguments, the stories of famous tort cases, and "you make the call" challenges in which visitors weigh in on torts policy decisions.

I doubt that it will be competing with Disney World anytime soon. But it got me thinking about my own academic discipline, Civil Procedure. What would a Museum of Civil Procedure look like? Like Torts, it raises tough policy conflicts and, these days, those conflicts are highly politicized and involve campaigns financed by wealthy corporations seeking to affect public opinion and SCOTUS amicus briefs hoping to make procedural law less claimant-friendly. How would we design a procedure museum that might convey the importance of fair processes or citizen (jury) participation? Might visitors play a game applying a Prisoner's Dilemma scenario to decisions about discovery? Classic civ pro cases might also provide thought-provoking artifacts: William Twombly's complaint? The Robinsons' burnt-out Audi? Video of the recollections of Sandra Adickes about her efforts to integrate Hattiesburg (Adickes v. Kress)? Maybe the museum could stage a battle between the Repeat Players and One-Shot Players. [I see real potential for a Procedure wing of the Tort Law museum.]

Silly? Not really.  I found it to be a great exercise in thinking about how to explain to members of the public why I think procedure is interesting and important, and what's really at stake.  What about your own legal academic discipline? I'd love to see  Comments about The Museum of [Your Subject Here].

Posted by Beth Thornburg on September 13, 2015 at 06:39 PM in Civil Procedure, Culture, Torts | Permalink

Comments

I will be attending the opening of the tort museum this month -- speaking about the role of juries and tort law -- but it is a project that should be embraced by torts professors. The impact of tort law on America has been significant and the museum will showcase this reality.

Professor Andrew Ferguson
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

Posted by: Andrew Ferguson | Sep 13, 2015 10:35:20 PM

The two-way mirror from the Mas's old apartment? The Erie RR car or the thing protruding from it? A can of Star-Kist tuna? Some Celotex asbestos?

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Sep 14, 2015 7:29:12 AM

Please tell me this is funded by the ATLA!

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 14, 2015 9:10:53 AM

Two words: the snail?

Posted by: Thomas NZ | Sep 23, 2015 2:39:13 AM

NY Times story on Tort Museum: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/26/us/ralph-naders-tort-law-museum-seeks-to-keep-his-crusade-evergreen.html?_r=2

Posted by: Beth Thornburg | Sep 25, 2015 10:23:52 AM

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