Beginning on February 3rd, Professor Susan Bandes, the Centennial Distinguished Professor of Law at DePaul University, will be teaching a short course – The Law, Literature and Capital Punishment – to Miami Law students. Professor Bandes is widely known as a scholar in the areas of federal jurisdiction, criminal procedure and civil rights, and more recently, as a pioneer in the emerging study of the role of emotion in law. She recently answered a few questions about the course and herself.
1. Why did you choose to teach at Miami Law?
"I spent a wonderful couple of years teaching at Miami Law, and I miss the place and the people. I miss the vibrant and intense discussions at workshops, and in walks around the lake, and while waiting in line at Starbucks. I have happy memories of sitting out on the bricks chatting with students. I'm excited to be back."
2. What are you most looking forward about teaching at Miami Law?
"I'm going to answer this question along with the one about my most memorable teaching experience. One of the two best teaching experiences I've ever had was a criminal justice colloquium I taught at Miami Law. This may seem like a strange word to use about a law class, but it was magical. I had a terrific group of students, and the criminal law faculty participated too. I still remember the amazing discussions we had in that class. I will always remember watching the students gain the skill and the confidence to critique the papers of outside speakers and to engage in debate with the UM criminal law faculty. The students were truly impressive."
"So first of all, I'm looking forward to working with UM students again, and second, I'm looking forward to this seminar. Because my other most memorable teaching experience was teaching the course I'll be teaching at UM: Law, Literature and Capital Punishment. I've taught it at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, and both times it's been a peak teaching experience for me and, my students have told me, a unique and memorable experience for them too.
3. What can a Miami Law student hope to get out of your class?
"What I love about this course is that instead of having the same old polarized debate about capital punishment, we read literature that helps us understand what's at stake for a whole range of those affected by the death penalty. We read accounts about (or by) victims' families, defendants and their families, lawyers, judges, jurors, and even wardens, chaplains and executioners. I also love that we get away from the usual drill of reading court cases. We read both fiction and non-fiction: short stories, poetry, autobiography, biography, interviews, a short law review article, and other sources. We consider the value—the benefits and the limitations—of different types of information. The experience is intense. It isn't easy to become immersed in any of the viewpoints this course explores. But it leads to a whole new level of insight into the legal, moral, philosophical and psychological questions raised by capital punishment."
"Another great perk of teaching this course at UM is the incredible criminal law faculty. Professor Scott Sundby, for example, has written one of the best books out there on capital juries. We'll be reading a chapter from the book, and Professor Sundby has graciously agreed to join us for that discussion."
4.Where is the coolest place you've gotten to travel? Either as a result of teaching or personal travel?
"I'm writing an article for a book on criminal justice and traveled to Australia last spring to meet with the other contributors, who were from Hong Kong, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. It was pretty fascinating to discuss our different cultural assumptions about crime and punishment and how they lead to our countries' vastly different legal approaches. And Australia is an amazing place. Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen, with an incredible array of Asian-influenced cuisine. The Great Ocean Road outside of Melbourne is magnificent. There are trees filled with koalas by the side of the road! I hope to get back before too long and continue exploring."
5. Please give us 1 fun fact about yourself.
"I'm not sure if this counts as a fun fact, but I'm obsessed with food. Just for example, I grew up in New York City and have since learned that there is no good deli anywhere else. I was just in New York and went down to the Lower East Side and bought a gallon of sour pickles and brought them back to Chicago in my checked luggage."
Prof. Susan Bandes. (Photo: Miami Law)