The Catholic University of America

 

Professors Watson and Pennington Trace
Some Legal History as Part of Reunion Weekend

 

For the returning alumni, it may have felt like being back in class again, except this time for pure enjoyment with no grades at stake.
 
Long-time faculty members Geoff Watson (above left) and Kenneth Pennington contributed to Catholic University law school’s Reunion Weekend, Oct. 26-28, by offering a joint lecture on aspects of legal history to visiting graduates and current students.
 
“After Hours with Professors Pennington and Watson" has become a traditional part of Reunion Weekend. This year, Professor Watson spoke about the decline in power and influence of the American jury from about 1780 to 1820, with a particular focus on the role of the jury in deciding questions of law, as opposed to fact. 
 
Most modern-day Americans do not realize that juries once held vastly greater power in the justice system than they do now. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they accepted little instruction from judges, and even had the power to determine the salaries of court workers.
 
Watson noted that the growing “professionalization” of the judiciary, featuring full time judges, was among the factors that contributed to the gradual ebbing of the power of juries in America’s system of justice.  
 
Professor Pennington (left), Kelly-Quinn Professor of Ecclesiastical and Legal History at Catholic University, then discussed Gratian and medieval canon law. The Benedictine monk, who lived during the early Middle Ages, compiled a collection of nearly 3,800 texts touching on all areas of church discipline and regulation. The body of work is known as Gratian’s Decretum, and it soon became the basic text on which the masters of canon law lectured and commented in the universities.