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The Duty to Rescue (Sample Class)

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[What follows is the text for a sample “introduction to law”/“critical thinking and law” class that I sometimes run. It is about the duty of rescue and some of the competing intuitions people have about whether such a duty should be recognised in law. The class is basic and is intended for new students or students thinking about studying law. I typically run this class by getting students to vote on their answers to each of the hypothetical questions, discussing their votes with their peers, and then facilitating a class discussion about these votes. This often ends up with me posing multiple variations on the hypotheticals presented below. The class can be expanded or contracted by increasing/decreasing the number of hypotheticals or case studies and by increasing/decreasing the number of student activities within the class. The minimalist version would just cover the initial hypotheticals and the mock jury/judge exercise] One of the distinctive features of our legal system — like all legal systems inherited from the United Kingdom — is that it is based on the common law. In a common law system, legal rules are extracted from cases. People come to court with stories. They tell these stories to judges (and sometimes juries). The judges determine what the ruling should be, sometimes creating new rules but more often by basing their judgment on rules derived from older cases. In legal parlance, we call this “following the precedent” (i.e. following the rule set down in older cases). A judge’s ability to apply such old rules depends on whether the new cases are sufficiently similar to the older cases (i.e. are they analogous?)There is a basic form to all such precedential reasoning. Although it is rarely explicitly stated, what is typically happening here is that judges are following this reasoning process:(Premise) An older case — Case A — stipulates a rule that “if x happens, then legal consequence y should follow”.(Premise) The present case — Case B — is similar. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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