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John Maxcy Zane’s The Story of Law and the Delaware Bar

November 24th, 2014 No comments
The Power of the Law illustration

The Power of the Law by Edwin Blashfield, frontispiece of the original edition of The Story of the Law.

The modern Delaware Bar exam has a reputation as one of the toughest in the nation. But today’s bar candidates can at least be thankful they no longer have to read The Story of the Law by John Maxcy Zane. From 1931 to around 1970, those wishing to be admitted to the bar had to first register as a law student and were required to read and pass an oral examination on The Story of Law, a survey of the history of Western law originally published in 1927. The Delaware State Bar Association’s official history claims it was “for many members of the Bar, … a horrible experience they have never forgotten.” In 1963 13% of candidates failed their examination on Zane.

In a 1987 article in The Delaware Lawyer, attorney William Prickett (whose father, William Prickett, Sr., was a member of the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners) called The Story of Law “that truly awful book.” He recalled his father’s explanation for the Board’s continued use of the book: first, the members of the Board were already familiar with Zane and didn’t want to spend the time to learn a new book well enough to conduct the exam, and second, many aspects of legal practice are tedious, so reading and understanding Zane was a good test of a lawyer’s ability to learn tedious and dull material.

The Story of Law does have its admirers. A review in the Pennsylvania Law Review called it “… a source of delight from cover to cover.” It was republished in a second edition by the Liberty Fund in 1998 with a new introduction and illustrations. The introduction to the new edition describes it as “… a learned and highly readable account of the shaping of Western law from the Neolithic age to the dawn of the twentieth century.”

If you would like to judge Zane for yourself, you can read the new edition online at the Liberty Fund website. Widener Law Library has a copy of the new edition available for borrowing. The first edition is in our special collections and can’t be borrowed but you can view it on HeinOnline.

Sources:

Kinnane, Charles H., The Story of Law by John M. Zane, 78 U. Pa. L. Rev. 89.

Murphy, Earl Finbar, The Philosophy of Law in Historical Perspective by Carl Joachim Friedrich; The Story of the Law and the Men Who Made It-From the Earliest Times to the Present by René A. Wormser; Legal History, Law and Social Change by Frederick G. Kempin, 8 Am. J. Legal Hist. 89.

Prickett, William, Flunking the Bar, 6 Del. Law. 34 (Summer 1987)

Siebold, Dennis J. Admission to the Bar in The Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century (Delaware State Bar Association, 1994)

Zane, John Maxcy, The Story of Law (Liberty Fund, 2nd ed. 1998)

Coins accepted for paying your Delaware taxes in 1781

November 14th, 2014 No comments
list of gold and silver coins

List of acceptable gold and silver coins for paying a tax levied in Delaware, 1781.

In 1781 the state of Delaware passed a law (2 Del. Laws ch. 71) calling for an assessment to pay the debt from the American Revolution. Part of the taxes had to be paid in gold or silver coins, or in new banknotes. The act listed which coins were acceptable for paying the tax, including the Brazilian johannes (commonly called a Joe), the English or French Guinea, the moidore (also minted in Brazil), Spanish pieces of eight, and the Arabian chequin. You could not pay in German coins (probably because they were notoriously debased.)

More information on early coins in America:

 

 

Delaware passes law governing digital assets

August 20th, 2014 No comments

Delaware recently passed HB 345, the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act. Here is the bill itself and here is the legislative history. The new law is based on the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

There’s been a lot of coverage of the new law on technology news sites, many of which don’t seem to understand it. Some of the better articles can be found on:

Categories: Delaware Tags: ,

The age of consent and rape reform in Delaware

July 7th, 2014 No comments
tatnall street

Children playing next to a reputed house of prostitution on Tatnall Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 1910.

In February 1889 a group of women activists presented a petition to the Delaware General Assembly with 10 yards of signatures of Delaware residents. This petition, presented by the Delaware Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, called for the state legislature to raise the age of consent. At that time under Delaware law the age of consent was a shockingly low seven. (W.C.T.U. Petition, Every Evening, February 12, 1889).

Sometimes misunderstood to refer to marriage, the age of consent in question actually had to do with the law of rape, similar to today’s statutory rape laws. Under English common law, which was adopted by Delaware and the other states, rape was defined as ”the carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will.” 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries *210.

In order to convict a man of rape, both force and lack of consent had to be proved, except in the case of a girl under the age of consent who was considered to not know right from wrong and was therefore incapable of consenting. The traditional common law age of consent was 10 or 12. In Delaware the age of consent was 10 until 1871 when it was lowered to seven. 14 Del. Laws 105 (1871) The same law instituted the death penalty for sex with a girl below the age of consent, before that the penalty had been up to 10 years in prison. It was probably the increase in the penalty which caused the age to be lowered, although reticence at the time to even discuss rape, means there is little mention of the change in law in the newspapers of 1871 and no legislative history.

blacklist of states arena

In 1895 Delaware still topped The Arena’s list of states with a low age of consent.

In the 1880s a nationwide campaign began to raise the age of consent. This campaign was led by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Nowadays often dismissed as a group of humorless do-gooders who didn’t want anybody to drink, in the 19th century the WCTU was the largest and most powerful women’s group in the country. Besides their interest in the prohibition of alcohol, they also campaigned against social problems such as prostitution and violence against women, as well as promoting the rights of women to own property and vote. At the 1886 annual meeting of the Delaware WCTU, Delaware Union president Annie H. Martindale told fellow members that “the laws of our own State have drawn upon us the condemnation of shocked and surprised women throughout the country, the age of legal consent being only seven years, the lowest probably of any state in the Union. We must join our sisters in this holy work.”

By 1889 the Delaware WCTU had spurred the Delaware General Assembly to act to reform the age of consent law. The WCTU’s petition asked for the age of consent to be raised to 18. As in most states, the men of the Delaware General Assembly were not willing to go that far. They compromised by not technically raising the age of consent, but by passing a law defining a new crime, making it a misdemeanor to use or procure a female under the age of 15 for the purpose of sexual intercourse or to employ a female under 15 in a house of prostitution. 18 Del. Laws 686 (1889) That age was eventually raised to 18.

Technically, the age of consent in the Delaware rape law remained seven until 1972, when the state completely overhauled its criminal code, replacing the old common law definition of crimes with a modern criminal code. The laws relating to rape and sexual assault have continued to be reformed. As recent controversies over sexual assault on campus have shown the question of consent as a defense to the charge of rape is still a matter for activism and reform today.

Photo sources:

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004002268/PP/
14 The Arena 418 (1895)

Sources:

Delaware Criminal Code with Commentary. (State of Delaware, 1973)

Leslie K. Dunlap. The Reform of Rape Law and the Problem of White Men: Age-of-Consent Campaigns in the South, 1885-1910, in Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (Martha Hodes ed. 1999)

Jane Larson, ‘Even A Worm Will Turn at Last': Rape Reform in Late Nineteenth-Century America, 9 Yale J. L. & Human. 1 (1997)

Mary Odem, Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920 (1995)

Aaron M. Powell, et al. The Shame of America—The Age Of Consent Laws in the United States: A Symposium, 11 The Arena 192 (1895)

Trial by combat in Delaware

May 13th, 2014 No comments

This week’s Game of Thrones episode has put the medieval practice of trial by combat in the spotlight. Gawker and Above the Law both have interesting articles on the practice. Although this Time article claims trial by combat has never happened in the United States, it was requested once in Delaware. In McNatt v. Richards, a 1983 case in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, defendant Freedom Church of Revelation, challenged the plaintiff to trial by combat to the death. Vice Chancellor Maurice A. Hartnett, III was not amused and admonished the defendant that “… challenge of trial by combat to death is not a form of relief this Court, or any court in this country, would or could authorize. Dueling is a crime and defendant is therefore cautioned against such further requests for unlawful relief.”

In case you’re wondering why a pro se defendant would file a “rambling tirade which asserts various preposterous allegations and claims” challenging someone to trial by combat, the answer is of course, tax scam.

Library exam hours start Friday

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Final exams are almost here. Starting on Friday, April 25th, the Delaware campus law library will be open until 2:00 AM.

Our hours for the end of the semester are as follows:

  • Friday, April 25 through Wednesday, May 14           8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
  • Thursday, May 15                                                                   8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Friday, May 16                                                                          8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

CLOSED GRADUATION WEEKEND May 17 & May 18

 

Researching Delaware criminal sentencing

April 3rd, 2014 No comments

Here’s a quick list of sources for researching Delaware criminal sentences.

Title 11, chapter 5 of the Delaware Code defines crimes in Delaware and gives the classification of each crime.

Title 11 chapter 42 of the Delaware Code contains the possible sentences for each category of offense.

Delaware Sentencing Guidelines are in the Delaware Sentencing Accountability Commission Benchbook. The Benchbook is updated every year and the current Benchbook can always be found on the Commission’s webpage.

The old razzle dazzle and other licensed amusements

March 31st, 2014 No comments
1915 statutes licenses

Page from the 1915 Delaware Code listing occupations requiring a license.

While doing some research on a more serious topic, I happened to notice an index entry in the 1915 Delaware Code: “Razzle-dazzle keepers, license of.” What exactly was a razzle-dazzle keeper and why did it require a license?

The 1915 Delaware Code includes a list of occupations requiring a license, including some you might still see licensed today, like doctors, lawyers, dentists, and real estate agents, but also some more unusual occupations like “keeping … stallions … for the use of mares” and “practicing jugglery.”

Razzle dazzle at Coney Island

The razzle dazzle at Coney Island in 1896.

It also includes a list of amusements that require a license to operate, which is where the razzle-dazzle comes in. The razzle-dazzle was an early amusement park ride.  There is apparently only one operating razzle-dazzle still left, at a steam museum in England. The old Delaware law gives a snapshot of early 20th century amusement rides, including bicycle and tricycle railways, haunted swings, revolving swings, merry-go-rounds, toboggan slides, switch backs, shoot-the-shoots, ferris wheels, and scenic railways.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

Widener- Delaware Campus Law Library Closing at 9pm

January 21st, 2014 No comments

Due to inclement weather the Widener- Delaware Campus Law Library will be Closing at 9pm this evening, Tuesday, January, 21st. We apologize for an inconvenience.

Categories: Delaware Tags:

Library hours for Martin Luther King Day

January 14th, 2014 No comments

The Delaware campus law library will be on shorter hours for Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 20th.

On Sunday, January 19th we will be open from  10 AM to 10 PM and Monday, January 20th from 9 AM to 9 PM.

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