July 30, 1943 – Birth of Legal Scholar Robert M. Cover

Robert M. Cover, a professor at Yale University Law School, wrote and lectured widely on legal history, constitutional law and jurisprudence before his untimely death of a heart attack at age 42.

He is famous for articulating several thought-provoking concepts about law, including the inherent violence in legal interpretation:

Legal interpretation’ takes place in a field of pain and death. This is true in several senses. Legal interpretive acts signal and occasion the imposition of violence upon others: A judge articulates her understanding of a text, and as a result, somebody loses his freedom, his property, his chil- dren, even his life. Interpretations in law also constitute justifications for violence which has already occurred or which is about to occur. When interpreters have finished their work, they frequently leave behind victims whose lives have been torn apart by these organized, social practices of violence. Neither legal interpretation nor the violence it occasions may be properly understood apart from one another.”

He is perhaps most cited for his writings on law as a bridge in normative space, connecting the world we have to a world we can imagine. His elaboration of this concept in his seminal article for the Harvard Law Review, “Nomos and Narrative” is worth reading in full, and may be accessed online here.

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