October 19, 2017
Who says studying law can be deadly dull? In her book "Halloween Law: A Spirited Look at the Law School Curriculum," Victoria Sutton exhumes cases that illustrate the subjects first-year law students are expected to master.
Using Halloween as a theme, Sutton, a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor at the Texas Tech University School of Law, has crafted a book for those wishing to be entertained and learn something at the same time.
"I thought I might do something on vampires and the law," Sutton said. "But there just wasn't enough variety. But in my research I noticed a great number of cases revolving around Halloween, and it occurred to me the subject areas fell into the same categories we teach in the first year of law school."
Sutton, who teaches constitutional law as well as biodefense and biosecurity law at Texas Tech, touches on the first year course of constitutional, criminal, tort and property law.
"I hope that non-lawyers will read the book and get a sense of what we learn and how we learn it in law school," she said.
In the criminal law section, Sutton looks at whether Halloween excuses vandalism to some degree.
"Does a judge ever give any deference to the fact that it's Halloween? Can you behave a certain way on Halloween and get away with it? The short answer is no. Vandalism is still vandalism and the courts have repeatedly said that," she said.
Sutton also deals with the issue of haunted houses and the question: "can you win a lawsuit if you pay to get scared and then hurt yourself because you were scared?"
"In normal society we have a duty to other people not to frighten them and possibly hurt themselves," Sutton said. "But at Halloween, the courts have said that duty is modified. You are paying to get scared when you walk into a haunted house, so the courts have held that, unless there was something negligent such as trash left on the floor that contributed to the injury, haunted house operators are not liable if a person injures themselves reacting to a scare."
In keeping with superstition, Sutton skips chapter 13 in the book but still delivers a short history lesson, writing: "since Friday, Oct. 13, 1307 when King Phillip IV of France arrested (and murdered) the Knights Templar, it has been considered an unlucky day."
At the end of each chapter there is at quiz with real, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek questions. "You can look at the answer first, if you like," she said. "Once you've completed each quiz, you'll be able to fill out the form in the back of the book recognizing that you've earned your Halloween Law letters."