Judge Seybourn H. Lynne Lecture Hall, Friday, October 10, 2014
From the noble lie of Plato’s Republic to the controversy about former President Clinton’s “lying” in the Monica Lewinsky case, from the use of secrecy in today’s war against terrorism to the endless spinning of political campaigns, from President John Kennedy’s behavior during the Cuban missile crisis to cover ups concerning pedophile priests in the Catholic church, from Freud’s efforts to decode the secrets beneath civilized life to contemporary exposés of the private lives of politicians, lying and deception seem ubiquitous in our public life. And what is true in our public life is also true in our legal life. While the law recognizes deceit as a cause of action in torts, as the late Arthur Leff famously noted, the law tolerates a lot of deception in market transactions. In addition, while law condemns lying under oath, it condones deceptive silence. While law condemns entrapment, it condones deception and decoys as acceptable tools in the enforcement of the criminal law. While the law values truth it defends the right to lie as an aspect of freedom of speech. This conference will investigate the way law responds to lying and deception. When and where are they tolerated? When and where are they condemned? What can we learn about law by examining its attitude toward lies?