Free Speech: Fascinating topic in US law and it seems like there is, without fail, a new case about a student writing something on Facebook that causes a disruption at the school and leads to the student's suspension. How does this relate to Potter? We can discuss how the First Amendment applies to the Trio when they start the DA and when Harry is noticeably outspoken about Voldemort's return before the wizarding world realizes he's back. There are dozens of other instances where we can talk about the application of the First Amendment in schools.
Fourth Amendment/Search & Seizure: Really interesting because school administrators are not necessarily bound by the same limits as police officers, so they are allowed more leeway in searching students and tracking down potential rulebreakers. It's led to a real delicate and tenuous position for vice principals and the like who are looking to maintain order but not step on any toes. I think we could look at instances where students were searched, such as with their actions involving the DA, students searched upon entering Hogwarts in HBP, and when the school was searched when Sirius broke in during POA. Definitely a number of potential fact-patterns to run with on this topic. I think it would be interesting to hear what Judge Karen would have to say on these issues.
The Imperious Curse:
As an Unforgivable Curse and Punishable by Life in Prison/Dementor's Kiss: Is simply controlling someone's mind enough to warrant life in Azkaban? Wouldn't you also need to have the controlled person commit some sort of atrocity? Or is the simple fact that the controlled person lost their autonomy enough to fit the mold under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment?
As a Defense to Charges of Being a Death Eater: Initially, upon Voldemort's demise due to Lily's enchantment, many of the Death Eaters came back and said they were simply under the Imperious Curse and that they shouldn't be held accountable. As a result, the Ministry let many of them continue their daily lives as though nothing happened. Is the Imperious Curse a type of insanity defense for otherwise hardened criminals? Does it essentially allow a Death Eater to say, "I didn't know what I was doing at the time, so I should be innocent?" I think we could take a moment to discuss it's treatment as a defense to crimes. Plus, how could it be proven? In a US court, the burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of their crimes. How could a prosecutor prove that someone was under the Imperious Curse? In order for a defendant to raise reasonable doubt and be acquitted, all they would have to do is basically say they were under the Imperious Curse and they could reasonably get away with it. Fascinating potential topic, which is all the more complicated by the threshold question of whether the Imperious Curse fits under the traditional definition of the insanity defense.
Identity Theft and Polyjuice Potion:
What constitutes identity theft? Does taking Polyjuice Potion and assuming another person's life/role violate the law on identity theft? Even if it's for innocent purposes? You could obviously go into detail about the Crouch Jr./Mad-Eye situation, but it's also interesting to talk about the innocent uses of the punishment, such as the Seven Potters scene or when the Trio try to use it to discover if Draco is the Heir of Slytherin. Then again, are the Trio criminals for using the potion to imitate Bellatrix and steal the cup? Or is that okay because it was for "the greater good?"
Assisted Suicide and Professor Dumbledore:
Was it murder or assisted suicide when Snape caused Dumbledore's death? What makes it one over the other? Should Snape have been legally punished for his part in it? Fascinating question intellectually, but maybe not in terms of the liveliness of the discussion.
Veritaserum and Self-Incrimination: How does Veritaserum impact the admissibility of an accused criminal's confession? Does it violate Miranda and does it violate a person's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination? What are the implications of its use throughout the series (i.e., Dumbledore's use on Crouch, Jr.; Umbridge's use on DA members/Harry; and Snape's continuous threats to use it on Harry)? Is there a moral differences between the uses? What makes it's use morally and legally appropriate? Is it ever legally appropriate to use Veritaserum?
Equal Protection and Elf Rights:
It's fascinating how house elves and a whole host of other magical creatures are treated by wizards throughout the text. Are they entitled to protection under the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses? The same discussion could be had about giants (including half-giants like Hagrid), werewolves, and Muggle-borns (to the extent there were problems under the Voldemort "Administration"). In a similar vain, at least as far as House Elves are concerned, does the 13th Amendment's prohibition against slavery apply to House Elves? For the purposes of the law, are they considered "people" or "citizens"?
This chapter stems from the reference to age as a prerequisite for young wizards to engage in certain activities. For example, a student was supposed to be at least 17 to participate in the TriWizard Tournament, to apparate outside of class, or use magic away from Hogwart's. What prompts a legislature to draw the line of legal responsibility at a certain point? Why do ages differ from state to state?
Why do the ages differ from activity to activity (For example, 18 is the age for entering a contract; 17 in NY is the age for consenting to sexual encounters)?
This chapter stems from Professor Umbridge's dismissal of Professors Hagrid and Trelawney. Do teachers have rights that are triggered when an adverse employment action is taken? Can they be summarily dismissed? Do they have a right to be heard before termination? Do they have any other due process rights?
Why did the wizarding world want animungi to register? What prompts governments to require certain categories of people to register with the state (for example, sex offenders, lobbyists, aliens, men eligible for the draft)?
This chapter stems from Harry's use of magic to ward of dementors while in Winging with Dudley. What exactly is justification in the law? It sounds like someone can do something illegal, is that true? What led the legislature to adopt a defense of justification?
Americans with Disabilities Act:
Thisection is triggered by Dumbledore's accommodating Lupin when he was a student, on nights of full moons when Lupin transformed into a werewolf. What rights are granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act? Was the Act needed? Can you give an example of its application? What is a reasonable accommodation? Where is the line drawn between reasonable accommodation, which an employer is required to make to a person with disabilities, and an undue hardship?
Auguest 8, 2007 - Amazon releases its final number for the release of Deathly Hallows. Over 2.2 million books were pre-ordered as of July 20th; 1.75 books per second were sold on the final day before release.