Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Disciplinary councils as alternative legal structures

Last week Steven Danderson of FAIR Blog linked to a paper on the LDS Church's disciplinary council system as an alternative legal structure. Danderson initially attributed the paper to Santa Clara University law professor David D. Friedman, and the paper was hosted at Friedman's site. I thought the paper was interesting, but it didn't take me long to conclude that it wasn't written by Friedman. The piece is more expository than analytical, it seemed more probable to me that the paper was written in the perspective of someone within the Mormon Church.

Fortunately, we have a little inside information from another Bloggernacle denizen, Keri Brooks, who is actually at SCU Law right now. She revealed that the paper was actually written by an anonymous student in Professor Friedman's seminar "Legal Systems Very Different From Ours," and a little digging in Friedman's website bears that out.

The immediate lesson to learn from this is to watch how you attribute material online. (Danderson still hasn't updated or amended his post to clarify the paper's authorship.) But I still appreciate his calling attention to the paper because Mormon disciplinary councils are an interesting topic, and I haven't seen much written on the topic. I know William & Mary Law professor Nate Oman has written on Mormon Church courts before and after the Utah territory became a state, but his article is more of a historical perspective than a current analysis. Mormon disciplinary councils are interesting for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are derived in part (though not entirely) from Anglo-American legal traditions, and yet they operate in a wide variety of countries that have legal traditions far different from Anglo-American jurisprudence.

The paper on Professor Friedman's site is not long, so give it a look-see, especially sections IX - XI.

Update: Danderson amended his post to clarify the paper's authorship.