BRAXTON MOORE ’19 | NEWS EDITOR • For many, Spring Break presents an opportunity to escape the Indiana cornfields in search of warmer climates and white sandy beaches, some Wallies took a trip across the pond to the United Kingdom to study the formation
of “common law” amongst the courts of England and the United States. As a part of Scott Himsel, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Professor of History Stephen Morillo’s cross-listed History/Political Science course,
15 students toured a variety of legislative and judicial systems around London. For many students, the trip to England marked the first time overseas. The class returned after ten days with a plethora of entertaining stories and photos, as well as a deeper understanding of the common law.
Andrew Brake ’18 spoke on his experience in London, with a particular emphasis on the opulence of the kingdom, as well as traditionalist views held by the nation in regards to the monarchical construct.
“The thing that was most substantial for me on the trip was seeing the dichotomy between new screen images and new values, and old ones,” Brake said. “England
still retains the old values mainly as something ‘pretty to look at’ – such as the Crown Jewels, and the monarchy as a whole can be viewed in a similar fashion.”
Oliver Page ’19 described his time in England as “course material being brought to life,” and spoke on his takeaway from the immersion trip. He highlighted the differences between the legal system of the United Kingdom and the United States and relayed his excitement in touring England’s Supreme Court.
“It was really interesting to take the tour of the Supreme Court,” Page said. “It didn’t seem like that particular court had a long list of procedures like you might expect, they just have a conversation between the Supreme Court Justices and the barristers from each side of the case. It was also cool to see the fancy wigs and the robes that the Judges and barristers wore. It provided a good contrast to how we view lawyers in America.”
Another student who pointed out some massive differences between the English and American justice systems was Vincent D’Angelo ’20. D’Angelo specifically focused on the criminal justice system when asked about his favorite part of the trip, and he articulated upon the various levels of theatricality present in court both in the United States and England as well.
“My biggest takeaway from the immersion trip was seeing the huge contrast between courts in regards to how ‘dry’ they were,” D’Angelo said. “And I mean ‘dry’ in regards to the courts as a compliment.
All of the theatrical aspects of the American court system are not present in English courts … while a trial here in the States is more about being convincing and putting on a good show for the jurors … in the court system in the UK, the barrister stands up with six massive binders – which most likely span around 800 pages altogether, and is able to point at any one page at any given time to assist in making his or her point. It’s not about showy speeches like the ones portrayed in primetime drama television shows.”
Adam Kashin ’18 recounted the division among barristers and solicitors in the English legal system as the information he found to be most interesting throughout the trip duration. Kashin voiced his findings on this divide in the practice, and how it related back to the way lawyers are viewed and categorized in comparison to the United States.
“The entire profession was a split one,” Kashin said. “And learning about that juxtaposition was really quite interesting to me. I predicted that costs for legal aid in this system would be astronomical because if you have such a rising elitism in the profession – which is certainly the case in America, but not the case in the name itself, which it is in the UK – it becomes a more hierarchical system between lawyers themselves, not just between lawyers, judges, and justices. The structure of the legal system over there was very interesting to learn about, I was glad that we got the opportunity to speak with a practicing Barrister… we got the whole picture of the legal system in a number of different ways on this trip.”
Focusing more on the traditions and history of the legal system over the course of the immersion section, Alec Bertsch ’18 conveyed his amazement at the opulence and magisterial authority that he observed in the various courts.
“Specifically regarding the wigs and robes worn by the various members of court – there is no need for that, but the English maintain these practices in how they conduct law,” Bertsch said. “The tradition and the ‘pomp and
circumstance’ of it all … it remains a large part of their history and they remain largely proud of it. It was staggering, since our country is young in comparison, going to their country and seeing how these traditions and histories are still being played out in their everyday lives.”
The class toured historical landmarks such as the battlefield of the Battle of Hastings, The Tower of London, Parliament, the Supreme Court, The Royal Courts of Justice, and many other local attractions. The opportunity to observe court cases, as well as be
a tourist in one of the largest cities in the world was one that largely impacted Wabash students who may have never before ventured away from small-town Indiana. The Common Law class applied their liberal-arts education on a global scale, developing a deeper understanding of English law.