Thursday, March 22, 2018

Three from Witt: on Emergency Constitutionalism, Adjudication, and Humanitarianism

John Fabian Witt (Yale Law School) has posted three new pieces on SSRN.

"A Lost Theory of American Emergency Constitutionalism" is forthcoming in Volume 36, no. 3, of the Law & History Review (August 2018):
In the wake of the Civil War, Columbia Law School professor Francis Lieber, architect of some of the Lincoln administration's most important legal strategies, set out to write a definitive text on martial law and the emergency power. Lieber’s text would have summed up his view of the legal lessons of the Civil War. Lieber died in 1872, leaving an unfinished manuscript to his son, Guido Norman Lieber, soon to become the Judge Advocate General of the Union Army. Norman Lieber worked on the manuscript but never finished it. Hidden deep in the younger Lieber’s papers in the National Archives, the manuscript summarizes a strand of thinking about constitutional emergencies that first emerged in the controversies over slavery, then animated Emancipation and the broader legal strategy of the Lincoln White House, before running headlong into the post-war backlash signaled by the Supreme Court’s 1866 decision in Ex Parte Milligan. Building on debates over martial law in Anglo-American empire, the Liebers’ thinking embraced a forceful but constrained approach that made a cabined form of necessity the central principle of emergency governance in the modern state.
We've mentioned previously Professor Witt's delivery of the Hands Lecture, on "Adjudication in the Age of Disagreement." Here's the full text, as published in Volume 86 of the Fordham Law Review (2017). 

The final piece is "Two Humanitarianisms in Ambrose Bierce's 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.'" Here's the abstract:
The oft-anthologized short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Union Army veteran Ambrose Bierce — long a staple of high school curricula and the subject of music videos, television, and film — is not typically thought of as a study in the dilemmas of humanitarian law. But it is. It depicts an execution for violation of the laws of war. Even better, the text embodies a central tension in the laws of war, one that emerged in Bierce’s time and persists today. On the one hand stands a sentimental humanitarianism that aims to minimize the human suffering of war; Henri Dunant’s book, A Memory of Solferino popularized this stance and helped establish the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. On the other hand, a righteous humanitarianism chafes at the constraints that sentimental humanitarianism places on the pursuit of justice. Romantic nationalists like the Prussian-American political thinker Francis Lieber, whose code of rules for the Union Army was published a year after Dunant’s book, embrace the righteous justice of particular causes. Bierce’s “Owl Creek” straddles the two planks of the modern laws of war, conveying the power of both views.