Wednesday, April 5, 2006
First, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of Star Trek. Somewhere in my very distant past I recall seeing an episode where a creature was trying to protect its young or its nest or something from miners and, as I recall, it was blasted into oblivion. Perhaps that was social commentary; not sure, but that did it for me. (And maybe I’m wrong about the plot–-the important point here is not the plot of the show but how I interpreted and remember it.) Nor have I spent much time with the various work on the jurisprudence of Star Trek (or here) and what Legal Affairs terms “Enterprising Scholarship.” (Ha, ha).
So when we were talking today on Monday about zoning and Ryan Markham wondered about the appropriateness of extending the police power into something that looks like “Vulcan Jurisprudence,” I was puzzled. Now, I’m familiar with Judge Janice Rogers Brown's “Whiter Shade of Pale” speech, which discusses what might be termed "Whiter Shade of Pale Jurisprudence." I’m working on a post I’m going to call “Aloha Jurisprudence.” And I might do something on "Twilight Zone Jurisprudence" at some point. But "Vulcan Jurisprudence" was a new one to me.
Side-note here: through the magic of google, I see that a couple of other people have used the phrase “Vulcan Jurisprudence,” but not in the way Ryan used it. I have no clue what those pages are about (what’s Kraith? and what's Mens Rea by Bionic Zombie?).
Back to the main point: Ryan explained that by “Vulcan Jurisprudence” he meant the "needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few" (drawing on the theme of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I now learn). (He wasn't, just to be clear, advocating this position. In fact, he was wondering how the police power grew into "Vulcan Jurisprudence.") Of course there are lots of places in property (and in religion) where that appears to be the rule-–Euclid v. Ambler is certainly one of them, Boomer v. Atlantic Cement is another. In fact, considerations of utility are very important in American legal and moral thought. But the difficulty is figuring out how that all works in particular cases, isn’t it? And, taken to an extreme, that can lead to some scary results.
When you start referring to “Vulcan Jurisprudence,” make sure you credit Ryan Markham for this one. Just like Boozer's lawsuit against Prince, this is something we may hear about in future property classes.
Endnote: Diego Velázquez’ The Forge of Vulcan (1630) provided by the Wikimedia Commons.
Alfred L. Brophy
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