Thursday, November 15, 2007
A member of my first Torts class (a great group!), Clarke Madden, was kind enough to share with me the Torts notebook of his grandfather, Leroy S. Merrifield. Mr. Merrifield's first year at the University of Minnesota Law School was 1938-39. His professor was William Prosser. At the time, Prosser was working on Prosser on Torts, which was published in 1941.
The notebook is a treasure trove. It is bound in black leather and is in remarkably good condition. It appears that the first day of class was September 30, 1938. Professor Prosser began the year-long Torts course by distinguishing torts from crimes. Prosser also noted that "much of the law of torts is not settled" and, in a phrase Merrifield placed in quotation marks, that torts was "the battleground of social theories."
Leroy S. Merrifield went on to have a fantastic career. He became a law professor at George Washington University Law School. Although he was a labor law scholar, he also taught Torts. Professor Merrifield, who turns 90 on Sunday, is currently the Lobingier Professor Emeritus of Jurisprudence and Comparative Law at GW. A tribute to Professor Merrifield at the time of his retirement can be found at 55 George Washington Law Review 179 (1987).
The notebook, then, provides us the thoughts of an eminent torts scholar, in the process of creating arguably the most influential hornbook on torts, as channeled by a student who would go on to become a torts professor. I will discuss the notebook over the next several weeks. I sincerely appreciate Mr. Madden and Professor Merrifield for allowing me to examine and write about the notebook.