Texas Wesleyan Law Review

Article Title

Harry Potter and the Law

Document Type



This collection of essays about the law and Harry Potter explores the intersections between law, culture, and the Harry Potter stories. The collection begins with a group of essays, consistent with some of the previous legal literature, about the limitations of law and legal institutions as depicted in the Harry Potter narratives. The essays by James Charles Smith and Danaya Wright begin by considering the depiction of families in the narratives, and show the limited role of law for family relationships. The essay by Benjamin H. Barton considers a more legalistic institution, the Ministry of Magic, an institution depicted with major failings. The essay by Aaron Schwabach looks at the operation of the legal system through the lens of the "Unforgivable curses" and contends that they show an arbitrariness contrary to the rule of law. Similarly, Joel Fishman's essay explores the arbitrariness of punishment in the narratives. A second essay by James Charles Smith takes an interesting middle ground. It explores the legal status and wizarding conventions applicable to house-elves, and points out the ambiguity in the narratives as to whether the treatment of house-elves is good or bad. Likewise, the essay by Daniel Austin Green uses the narratives to explore the roles of excuse and justification in their relationship with legal authority and rule of law. The next several essays find some positive aspects to the depiction of law and legal institutions in the narratives. The first essay by Timothy S. Hall shows how the rule used to free Dobby, the house-elf, can be used as a pedagogical tool to illustrate the importance of intent in contract law. The essay by Jeffrey E. Thomas suggests that the negative and satirical depictions of law and legal institutions helps readers to focus on the importance of individual accountability in making moral decisions. The essay by Andrew P. Morriss also examines moral decisions. He contends that in spite of legal and institutional limitations, the wizarding world allows for individual moral choice, which is a recognition of the importance of individual liberty. This group of essays concludes by returning to one of the themes of the Power of Stories conference-the Dick Whittington story. A second essay by Timothy S. Hall compares the Harry Potter narratives to the Dick Whittington story, which reflects an interesting cultural evolution from Tudor to modern time.



First Page


Last Page