Books Developments in PIL Law teaching

Singer on Choice of Law (in the US)

Joseph William Singer (Harvard Law School) has published a new casebook on the American Conflict of Laws (Choice of Law – Patterns, Arguments, Practices). As its titles makes clear, its focus is on choice of law, but the book also includes two chapters on Procedure and Constitutional Law which present issues related to jurisdiction and foreign judgments.

The book is different from other American casebooks on conflict of laws in many respects. For foreign scholars, the most important will probably be that it is far more readable and accessible. US casebooks typically offer extracts of cases followed by questions. This might be good to teach American students to think like a lawyer, but for those who will not attend the class, it is not easy to know what American law actually is. Singer summarises the cases instead, and offers comments and his own views on the development of the law.

In particular, the book is a great source on the trends of the emerging Third Restatement, that Singer presents and assesses. The Restatement is still very much a work in progress, but some chapters have now been approved by the council of the American Law Institute, in particular on choice of law and torts, and the drafts are not freely available. The book offers an excellent insight in the most recent version of December 2019, in particular the new choice of law rules on torts.

The book also promotes a different type of learning. More specifically, it promotes experiential learning through persuasion, and includes for that purpose 11 moot courts exercises.

This book provides a new way to learn about the topic of conflicts of law through experiential learning. Most books describe the approaches that have been adopted over time to decide conflicts of laws. This book describes those approaches and includes the emerging Third Restatement. To promote experiential learning, it does more: First, it explains patterns of cases so that students can fit new cases into established frames of reference. Second, it distinguishes between easy cases and hard cases so students can determine when a case cannot be easily resolved. Third, it provides detailed arguments that are typically made on both sides of hard cases that fit the typical patterns. Fourth, it concludes with moot court exercises that students could perform in class to practice advocacy in this field and judging.

With new requirements to provide students with experiential learning opportunities, this text enables any teacher to give students the tools they need to understand the issues in the field, the reasons why cases are hard, the arguments that are available on both sides, and justifications that judges can give for resolving cases one way or the other.

Finally, the book ends with a chapter addressing the issues arising out of the existence of Indian nations and tribal sovereignty in the US, which add 573 governments in the conflicts equation, and are typically neglected in US conflicts books.

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