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.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/21/16: Thanksgiving as a Federal Holiday

A proclamation by President George Washington and a congressional resolution established the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. The holiday was intended to give thanks for the new government formed under the Constitution. It became an official federal holiday … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/14/16: Alienation of Affection

One of the most common 19th century civil suits was for alienation of affection, awarding damages to litigants whose marriages disintegrated due to the actions of a third party. In order for a plaintiff to prevail, he or she had … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/7/16: The Prohibition Party

Just in time for election day: the oldest third party in the United States is the Prohibition Party, founded in 1869, which advocates against the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. It declined dramatically in its popularity after the repeal of … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/31/16: The Meaning of ‘Rap’

The word rap – referring originally to a mild form of rebuke (such as to rap one’s knuckles) – by the late 18th century referred to punishment or blame for serious offences. By the early 19th century, it entered American … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/24/16 — the Rule of Lenity

The Rule of Lenity is a judicial doctrine requiring that courts use a principle of leniency when resolving ambiguities in statutes related to punishment. Should there be multiple or inconsistent penalties set out in a criminal statute, the Rule requires courts … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/17/16: The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law in 1966 after a twelve-year campaign to have it introduced and passed by Congress. Seen as controversial at the time of its passage, it was strengthened by Congressional amendment in 1974 in the … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/10/16: Gun Laws

A recent study in The Lancet, led by BU researchers, analyzed gun control laws across the U.S. and concluded that more than 80% of gun deaths could be prevented by national adoption of 3 laws: firearm identification through ballistic imprinting … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/3/16: The Origins of the Term ‘Boilerplate’

The legal term “boilerplate” — referring to standard language used in contracts, warranties, and other legal documents — has its origins in industry. A ‘boiler plate’ originally referred to sheet steel used in the manufacture of boilers which was pre-manufactured … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/26/16: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights— the first 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution– was never an actual bill introduced before Congress. Its name was inspired by the U.K. Bill of Rights of 1689, and borrowed freely from its concepts and language, including terms such as “cruel and unusual … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/19/16: Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

“Oyez”–a term used to open sessions of the Supreme Court, among other tribunals– is an ancient holdover from the use of Anglo-Norman in law. Meaning “to hear”, over time it was generally replaced by the expression “hear ye”. It is one of … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/12/16: The Incompatibility Clause

The Constitution imposes several qualifications and restrictions on Congressional service, most notably in Article I, sections 2 and 3 (which sets out age, citizenship, and residency requirements), and the Incompatibility Clause in Article I section 6 which forbids members of Congress from also … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 09/06/2016: The Number of Laws in the U.S.

Want to guess the number of federal laws in the U.S.? Good luck– even the Library of Congress doesn’t know. While this is one of the most popular questions asked of the Library’s reference librarians, they point out that simply tallying … Continue reading