Business & Personal Law

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"The eumenides sleep, but crime awakens them.
Hence it is the very act of crime which vindicates itself."


-Aeschylus
The Orestia

The mythical winged restitution-makers called the eumenides (or furies) manifest the intent of both criminal and civil law: to put things right.

In criminal law, putting things right is called retribution. A criminal action upsets society's balance (wakens the eumenides) and society can only right itself by imposing like for like on the criminal. The crime itself calls out for punishment; the eumenides cannot sleep until justice is served.

Most of our class is concerned with civil, as opposed to criminal law, but the principle is really the same. Here it is call restitution. And that is forever the primary goal of civil law courts. Put the parties in the position that they should be had the civil harm not been done them.

For example, if a college student leaves an apartment, without notice, nine months into a 12 month lease, the apartment owner is probably going to lose some income. If he cannot rent the apartment at all, he has lost three months rent. Since the student agreed, by his lease, to pay 12 months rent, justice (restitution) requires that things be set right by ordering the student to pay the apartment owner three months rent.

Society has other goals for both criminal and civil law. Criminal law may be concerned with protecting society by incarcerating or executing this particular criminal (a "specific deterrent"), with protecting society by deterring future crime (a "general deterrent"), or rehabilitating the criminal. Civil law my similarly be concerned with deterring socially deviant behavior, therefore awarding "exemplary" (or "punitive") damages to a wronged party. But the focus is always on righting the wrong and restoring the order.

The business and personal law class explores the application of justice principles in many areas that one is likely to encounter during one's lifetime. Our hope is that it will prepare students to better protect themselves from legal difficulties, enforce their rights when wronged (in our system the eumenides require considerable prodding), and become better citizens.

Students and parents, please feel free to contact me anytime with questions, concerns, or comments. Click here for contact information.

Gary Nelson

2002 by Gary Nelson. All rights reserved.