Editor’s note: Ryan Miller is a 2017 graduate and former valedictorian of Apalachee High School. He earned bachelor degrees in chemistry and history and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia in December 2020 and graduated summa cum laude with a master of public administration from UGA in May. He was accepted to Harvard Law School and recently began classes there. He is documenting that experience for the Barrow News-Journal.
Monday, Oct. 25
•Torts: Actual Causation. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that their injury was actually caused by the defendant’s conduct; it wouldn’t have happened “but for” the conduct.
•Property: Restrictions on Alienability. Alienability is the owner’s right to sell or lease their property, which can be restricted in agreements like condo associations or cooperatives.
•Vaccine Requirement: Flu. Harvard University has long required that all students receive the flu shot to be in classes because it improves general health and welfare on campus.
•Lesson of the Day: Alienability was made a core principle of U.S. property law to diverge from English feudalism and promote private ownership and personal mobility.
Tuesday, Oct. 26
•Torts: Multiple Causes. When an injury is caused by more than one party acting negligently, like two people shooting at a quail but hitting a person (Summers v. Tice), all can be liable.
•Property: Leaseholds. Through signing a lease, possession of the property transfers from the landlord to the tenant, but the landlord owns a future interest (a reversion) until the lease ends.
•Guest Lecture: Environmental Justice Litigation in Cancer Alley. Cancer Alley is a stretch of land along the Mississippi, where high levels of pollutants have caused high rates of cancer.
•Lesson of the Day: As a lawyer, if the facts are against you, argue the law; and if the law is against you, argue the facts.
Wednesday, Oct. 27
•Civil Procedure: Third Party Claims (Impleader). If you are sued for something you think another is responsible for, you can sue that person for the damages should you lose the case.
•Torts: Proximate Causation. Not only must negligent conduct cause an injury, but the conduct must not be so separated from the injury that other factors could have caused it too.
•Contracts: “Best Efforts” Clauses. In agreements that require a party to give their “best effort” (like with agents or publishers), courts hold these agreements enforceable but differ on how.
•Weather: Over the night, strong wind gusts split and broke an old hardwood tree just outside the Gropius Complex dorms, as we woke up to it spread out all over.
•Lesson of the Day: When drafting contracts, or making agreements, it is best to align the incentives for both parties to avoid conflicts and litigation.
Thursday, Oct. 28
•Civil Procedure: Choice of Law. In federal diversity cases (where parties are from different states), the court must determine whether it should use state or federal law.
•Contracts: Substantial Performance Doctrine. If a contractor performs in good faith but deviates from the contract, it counts as performance so long as changes are relatively minor.
•Harvard Video Game Law Association: Guest Speaker. Video game law is constantly changing based on the introduction of new features and markets that cross borders.
•Halloween Party: A student organization rented out a local venue to host a costume party exclusive to the law school and its students to celebrate the holiday.
•Lesson of the Day: Any international law requires recognizing cultural differences — for example, in Poland, “how are you doing?” is a far more personal question than in the U.S.
Friday, Oct. 29
•Civil Procedure: Erie v. Tompkins (1938). The Erie doctrine established that federal courts in diversity actions should apply state law to cases in areas where federal law does not apply.
•Contracts: Perfect Tender Rule. A buyer can reject a good for any defect before they accept it or, they can return a good for any substantial defect after they accept it.
•Torts: Palsgraf. In a rather famous opinion on negligence, Justice Cardozo held that we only have a duty to prevent injuries to those who are foreseeably put at risk by our conduct.
•Lesson of the Day: “Outside counsel is like relationships, after one year they won’t care about you the same, so you have to decide if you want to stick with them or try someone new.”
Monday, Nov. 1
•Supreme Court Streaming: Texas SB 8. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases that concern whether the private-suit enforcement aspect of this law is constitutional.
•Torts: Liability for Climate Change. Numerous municipalities are pursuing damages against fossil fuel corporations based on misleading statements made about their industry’s impact.
ªProperty: Warranty of Habitability. Landlords have an implied duty to provide a safe and habitable space to tenants, and tenants may refuse to pay rent if landlords do not fix issues.
•PLAP Training: Cross Examination. When doing a cross exam, it is important to ask short, close-ended, yes-no questions to obtain the facts and challenge the adverse witness.
•Lesson of the Day: “Yes but” statements are an effective way to acknowledge the points made by the opposing side yet argue why your side is preferable even if what they say is true.
Tuesday, Nov. 2
•Día de los Muertos: The Day of the Dead is observed on the 1st and 2nd of the month in Mexico, honoring deceased family and friends and sharing food and time with the living.
•Torts: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED). This tort provides a remedy when negligent conduct causes a victim to suffer solely from severe emotional distress.
•Property: Mortgages. Some regulations on property rights are needed because they create serious externalities, like from the subprime mortgages that led to the recession of 2008.
•Reading Group: Human Enhancement and Gattaca. Would we be comfortable allowing science to “improve” humanity? To avoid diseases? To improve performance? To choose?
•Lesson of the Day: Property rights are determined by state law, so the rules for buying and selling property are different depending on where you are in the United States.
Wednesday, Nov. 3
•Civil Procedure: Applying Erie after Hanna. Federal courts should apply state law when rule differences between state and federal would motivate “forum shopping” by parties.
•Torts: Asbestos Exposure Tort Cases. Courts have ruled that, unless there are symptoms present for the injured parties, they cannot recover damages from product manufacturers.
•Contracts: Mutual Mistake. If both parties are wrong about the facts or the meanings of words in the formation of contracts, courts are likely to void the contract.
•Coffee with a Mentor: Bluestone Lane. A mentor from a student organization met with me in Harvard Square and shared advice on preparing for 1L spring and summer.
•Lesson of the Day: It feels very nice to wake up knowing your hometown team won the World Series, especially when you are in a different city.
Thursday, Nov. 4
•Civil Procedure: Horizontal Choice of Law. States do not always apply their own laws in a case; they apply the relevant state law to the dispute to prevent taking advantage of courts.
•Section Meeting: Our section leader set time aside after class to provide us advice on dating, preparing for exams, budgeting our time, and ensuring that we get enough sleep and nutrition.
•Lunch Talk: Holding CEOs Accountable Through Shareholder Litigation. Plaintiff litigators described the process of suing corporations based on securities fraud and fiduciary breaches.
•Contracts: Impossibility and Impracticability. Courts will not enforce a contract if it becomes impossible or impracticable (extremely and unreasonably difficult) to perform.
•Lesson of the Day: Delaware is infamously known as a corporate safe haven in the United States based on its light taxes and beneficial usury laws on corporations.
Friday, Nov. 5
•Civil Procedure: Summary Judgment. A motion for summary judgment, if granted, dismisses a case before it goes to trial, and judges make the decision based on evidence available.
•Contracts: Frustration of Purpose. Courts will not enforce a contract if an external and unpredictable event makes the performance of such a contract worthless to its purpose.
•Mount Auburn Cemetery: Many famous Bostonians are laid to rest in this nearby national historic landmark, including Justice Joseph Story, who has an HLS dorm named after him.
•Lesson of the Day: Getting eight hours of sleep is important; going later into the night gives you diminishing returns on your work that night and on your work the next day.