Sunday, December 08, 2019

Interview with Law Made Fun Through Harry Potter's Adventures Author Karen Morris

Harry Potter Law Made Fun Through Harry Potter's Adventures
The Harry Potter series has taught generations the meaning of love, friendship, good versus evil, grief, bravery and so much more. Even though J.K. Rowling's series is set in the magical world of wizardry and magic, her storytelling has drawn true connections between fiction and reality.

Looking at the book phenomenon from another angle, Law Made Fun Through Harry Potter's Adventures explores the popular series through the lens of law and order. From Albus Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall leaving Harry Potter on the Dursley's doorstep to the legal obligations Hogwarts has to keeping its students safe, author Karen Morris and Bradley S. Carroll breakdown the real connections between the wizarding world and our own muggle laws.

Accessible to read for bookworms of all ages, the book offers a unique perspective of understanding just how intricate Rowling's world-building was and the implications characters could've found themselves in with our court system. Law Made Fun reviews 99 reviews of pivotal moments of Harry's journey to examine how it applies to Muggle Law and affects the surrounding story as well as characters. It's a perfect book for Harry Potter fans who love to learn a whole new side of the fictional story we love and dive deep into how it works.

I had the opportunity to interview the author Karen Morris about her background and how she came to adapting the series. Check out our interview below and her thoughts on death eaters, the Triwizard Tournament, and why a basic understanding of the law is a beneficial lesson to learn for everyone.

Can you share with Potter Talk’s readers a little bit about yourself – your background as a town judge and the inspiration to teach law through Harry Potter as well as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Downton Abbey. ( Be sure to check out the books on the official website.)

I am firmly committed to the view that law is a contemporary discipline.  While some would call it technical and pedantic, I take the exact opposition position.  Law is current, fun, and easily grasped if taught well.   As a college professor, I am always on the lookout for new ways to engage students.  I have found that law is readily learned using storylines from movies, TV shows,  books, and news stories.   When a person is familiar with characters from a popular series, offering learning based on their comings and goings is the equivalent of the sugar that Mary Poppins advocates helps the medicine go down.   Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are all popular series that make the learning effortless and enjoyable. 

I have been a town judge for 25 years.  I was just re-elected for another four year term which is  grand.  Here’s a fun fact  – Inspired by Harry and his magic-filled universe, I have become a magician.  I perform at no cost exclusively for kids’ events sponsored by  not-for-profit  agencies.  Magic is indeed wonderfully enchanting.

In addition to the Law Made Fun books, I write textbooks on various legal topics, a magazine column titled “Legally Speaking,” and a blog for a publisher on legal underpinnings of news stores of interest to college age Business Law students.

Why is a general understanding of the law beneficial to everyone?

Law impacts our lives on a daily basis.  If we are not compliant, we could find ourselves in unpleasant situations – court appearances, meetings with attorneys, fines, probation, jail, electronic monitoring of our comings and goings, ignition interlock on our vehicles (a device that detects alcohol use before a car can be started), and/or a criminal record that could foreclose career opportunities.  Additionally, law provides the underpinning for many entertainment genres.  By understanding the law, our appreciation and enjoyment of the world around us is significantly enhanced.


Which basic laws are fundamental for readers to know to protect themselves?

Everyone should acquire a basic understanding of our constitutional rights, criminal law, fraud (alas, because it is prevalent) and cyber law.  As we grow and develop a career path, a fundamental understanding of the law relevant to our chosen field is a necessity to avoid liability and police at the door of our office with an arrest warrant in hand.

Which basic laws are fundamental for readers to know if they ever find themselves in a legal situation? 

Hopefully readers do not find themselves in a legal  quagmire.  But if so,  they should know that a lawyer is critical and well worth the cost.  The legal system is powerful and complex.  Lawyers are schooled in maneuvering through it.  Ignorance can hurt a person’s case in very significant and powerful ways.  For example, by disclosing information to police in a criminal case rather than exercising the right to remain silent, a defendant may inadvertently facilitate greatly the prosecutor’s case against that defendant. 

If you ever hear police reading Miranda Warnings (You have a right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, you have a right to an attorney; if you can’t afford one, a lawyer will be provided for you at no cost), clam up, do not talk, and ask for that lawyer.  S/he will shepherd you through the process and help obtain the best possible outcome.

Are there instances where you have to turn off my experience in law to enjoy the lack of realism being portrayed in HP or another fictional world?   Or does it challenge you to think about the storytelling and world-building on a grander scale?

I will distinguish here between facts and the law.  I have no problem enjoying a great fantasy tale with storylines that capture and tickle my imagination, even though they are clearly fabricated.   What I cannot forgive are shows that take liberties with the law.  I feel violated and cheated.  I want to shake the writers.  Endless drama exists from the application of real law, more than sufficient to satisfy any good writer.  Why distort it and frustrate people’s understanding of this important force in our society?

The variety of chapters in Law Made Fun is extraordinarily thorough but simplified for everyone to read - What was the process like to break down JK Rowling’s fictional work and make it applicable to the real world? 

It was nothing short of great fun.  Throughout the process I felt like Rowling was encouraging my endeavor because she presented so many narratives that have legal underpinnings.   Harry’s creator gave my co-author and me wonderful material, rich with legal issues from which to extrapolate our book.  I have to assume that Rowling herself is fascinated by the law in a way that significantly influenced her development of the series. 

The limitless role that magic plays in Harry Potter, like conjuring objects and casting spells, has captured readers’ attention and imagination.  But is there a use of magic that crosses a clear line such as impersonating someone else through Polyjuice Potion? 

Sure, there are actions that the characters take that are objectionable.  I am less offended by the use of polyjuice potion than, say, the reckless and/or premature use of  the unforgiveable spells, or the poor treatment of house elves and discrimination against a variety of magical creatures, or the intolerance of mudbloods, or the lack of due process the Wizengamot and in Umbridge’s unbending  administration of Hogwart’s.  If we are going to fault polyjuice potion, to its credit, its effect is finite.  And when it’s over, it’s over big time.  The user quickly loses some of the persona assumed and transforms back to his original self which becomes very obvious to the onlooker, so its use is limited.  Also, in most instances the user of the potion is challenged to be convincing in the new identity (MadEye Mooney was an apparent significant exception).  Further, disguising oneself as another is a legal wrong and subjects the impostor to prosecution. 

Even though the Dudleys are Harry’s relatives and legal guardians, he ends up spending a lot of time with the Weasleys and they become his second family, especially in Order of the Phoenix.  If the Weasleys’ had tried to gain custody of Harry, would they have won even though the wizarding world presents its own dangers to his well-being?

Two issues come into play.  The first is the courts give strong preference in custody matters to relatives of the child.  But equally important is the ability of the person(s) with guardianship to provide for the needs of the child including such basic requirements as adequate food, love and affection, medical needs, emotional support, proper ventilation, and more.  

While the Dursleys are related to Harry, they fall far short of providing for all  of these needs. For that reason,  the Weaselys would have a likelihood of success had they sought guardianship of Harry.  Yes, the wizarding world presents dangers but so does the muggle world.  Further, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have negotiated the wizarding world fairly well, and have proven their ability to raise children who thrive.

To participate in the Trizwizard Tournament, students have to be of a certain age to submit themselves,  and entering the competition creates a binding magical contract.  However, it also presents some real dangers resulting in death or injury.  Do you think a magical contract should have been used against Harry even though he entered the tournament without his consent and was underage?  And could Hogwarts, the headmaster, or Ministry of Magic be held responsible for the death of Cedric and any injuries – psychological or otherwise – the other students endured?

To me, the forced participation of Harry in the Triwizard Tournament was a flaw in the storyline.  His age alone should have disqualified him since he did not meet the prerequisite. Also, even if the school was willing to overlook the underage issue,  the school should have investigated more his denial of submitting his name.

Yes, according to muggle law, the school could have been responsible for injuries and death occurring during the tournament.  A school has a legal duty to provide for the safety and welfare of students. (See the chapter on loco parentis.) The school cannot permit placing pupils in harm’s way.  The Triwizard Tournament  requires participation in competitive pursuits known to be dangerous.  Sponsoring such contests is contrary to the school’s legal duty.  While most of the participants volunteered for the position, in the eyes of the law many students at Hogwart’s are not old enough to provide consent because of the limited ability of young people to recognize and/or appreciate danger.

After the Battle of Hogwarts, a lot of characters are either pardoned for their crimes or escape being prosecuted.  What is the likelihood that politicians or Death Eaters like Lucius Malfoy or Dolores Umbridge should have been punished for their participation in Voldemort’s rise to power? 

Those who engage in illegal conduct should be brought to justice.  Voldemort was a ruthless, evil kingpin.  Anyone who conspired with him should be punished accordingly.  The laws of a post-corrupt administration should encourage prosecution of those who engaged in illegal and morally wrong conduct.   Such law enforcement establishes the bona fides of the new administration and reasserts the important role law and ethics play in society.

What characters do you think broke the most laws or should’ve at least stood trial for their actions?  Is there a specific character like a Death Eater or villain you would’ve liked to have tried in court?

There are many!  I would start with Voldemort,  Lucious Malfoy, Bellatrix,  Wormtail,  Filch and Umbridge.   

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

Lots of fun in reacquainting with their favorite characters, an understanding of the important role law plays in society, and knowledge of some legal principles that will enhance their understanding of the world around them.

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