About Ian C. Pilarczyk

Ian C. Pilarczyk is a legal historian and scholar who is also director of the Executive LL.M. in international business law, and the Legal English Certificate Program, at Boston University School of Law.

What is constitutional autochthony?

I was recently asked a very interesting question, somewhat related to legal history: namely, what is constitutional autochthony? ‘Autochthony’ is a word that rarely surfaces in everyday English, but it is a synonym for ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’. It is most … Continue reading

Informal Law and Custom

While I had intended to discuss heartbalm actions further, that will have to wait for a future blog entry as I wanted to discuss the concept of ‘informal law’ in more detail. I have long found the concept of informal … Continue reading

Famous U.S. Trials Course Materials (Ex College, Tufts University)

A series of short videos and other materials designed to supplement the regular course materials.

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Doctorate Thesis: ‘Justice in the Premises’

In the early nineteenth-century, before the system of private prosecutions gave way to the public prosecution system we now know –and before the rise of many civic welfare institutions and social movements dedicated to combating child abuse, spousal battery, protecting the mentally ill, animal welfare and the like–how did Montreal courts grapple with the issue of family violence? Given the sanctity of the family and the public / private sphere dichotomy, we might expect that they chose not to deal with some of these issues at all. This thesis uses the voluminous primary sources of the judicial archives to look systematically as to how courts dealt with cases involving infanticide, child abuse, family violence and spousal murder. In so doing, a clearer picture of the causes of these forms of social pathology and its similarities across jurisdictions and time periods emerges, as well as an indication that courts were willing to interpose themselves into the family sphere to protect children and vulnerable spouses against physical aggression.

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Master’s Thesis: ‘The Law of Servants and the Servants of Law’

Using the judicial archives, this thesis seeks to recreate the complex and overlapping legal regime that governed master-servant relations during this formative time in Montreal’s economic life. While traditional artisan-based labor relations were breaking down, these relationships became increasingly contractual in nature. In a system that was weighed in favor of preserving employer’s rights vis-à-vis their employees, courts nonetheless enforced servants’ rights against their masters as well. This study explores the nature of the offenses related to the breakdown of labor relationship as they were enforced within the city limits, and the differences in legal approach towards these issues outside of the city. This thesis was published in two parts by the McGill Law Journal in 2001.

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Between A Rock And A Hot Place

Before their gradual disappearance in the middle ages, ordeals were used as a form of adjudication of guilt and innocence in criminal proceedings. Based on the supposition that divine knowledge and intervention would steer the results in such a way as to punish the guilty and protect the innocence, ordeals fell into disrepute after the Catholic Church banned clerical participation in 1215 A.D. This article discusses various forms of ordeals, such as the ordeal of hot iron, and analyzes whether, and to what extent, these ordeals could have served as “rational” forms of adjudication during the period.

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‘The Terrible Haystack Murder’

The 1833 murder trial of Rev. Ephraim Avery was one of the great 19th century American criminal trials. Resulting in a nearly-unprecedented amount of media interest, it became one of the first trials of its kind to achieve national, and even international, coverage. Did the good Reverend seduce, impregnate and then murder the attractive, unmarried young woman who worked in a local factory, staging her death to look as a suicide? A jury acquitted him, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Rev. Avery was culpable. The narrative of the trial allows us a window into many defining issues common to the period, such as gender, religion, sexuality, and social mores.

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‘Too Well Used by His Master’

Traces the increasingly-contractual nature of master-servant relations during this formative period in Montreal labor history, by analyzing the sometimes-competing but always-overlapping sources such as notarial contracts and indentures, oral agreements, provincial statutes, municipal ordinances, common law principles and judicial discretion that governed these relationships. By analyzing these sources and the cases brought before courts during this period, a clearer picture of the extent to which servants were able to protect their rights during this period, vis-à-vis their employers, emerges.

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