Leo Katz is beginning his academic career with a substantial list of publications to his credit in areas as seemingly divergent as criminal law and corporate law.
"The interest in both may seem odd," he admits, "but in my mind the two fit comfortably together and I frequently draw on ideas from one area in solving problems in another. For example, thinking about the business judgment rule turns out to be illuminating for the doctrine of necessity. Similarly, thinking about criminal complicity suggests insights about certain quirks in the securities laws. "
Katz's eclectic interests and his ability to weave together diverse strands of thought into a coherent tapestry of principles are evident in his recently published book, Bad Acts and Guilty Minds: Conundrums of the Criminal Law (University of Chicago Press, 1987). Highlighting his arguments with the decisions of common law judges in colonial and postcolonial Africa, famous cases such as the Nuremberg Trials, and well-known incidents in fiction, Katz uses the arcane to shed new light on the mundane.
Examples: "A [Sudanese] villager kills his neighbor believing her a witch. Has he intentionally killed a human being? What about Bratton, who fires a bullet at a man, misses, and shoots the man's wife instead? And what of Clyde Griffiths, the protagonist of Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, who takes his lover, Roberta, out on a lake to drown? Somehow, not quite according to plan, the boat capsizes and she does drown. Has he intentionally killed her?"
Through these and other conundrums, which raise problems not only of intention, but also of causation, negligence, necessity, duress, complicity, and attempt, Katz seeks to understand the basic rules and concepts underlying the moral, linguistic, and psychological puzzles that plague the criminal law.
A 1982 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Katz explains that he began thinking about the book while clerking for Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. He was able to complete a draft of the book by taking a year off to work on it before becoming an associate with the Chicago law firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt.
Katz's other publications concern issues of corporate law, such as insider trading cases, corporate takeovers, and the poison pill. Most of these he coauthored with Leo Herzel, one of the senior partners of Mayer, Brown & Platt. Katz and Herzel are now expanding their ideas into a book. The Law of the Boardroom, as it will be called, is intended to serve as an advice book for newly installed corporate directors. "It's meant to convey a sense of the legal environment in which they will be moving and the significant problems they are going to have to think about," explains Katz.
Katz, who was born in Vienna and grew up in Berlin, learned English as a teenager when his family immigrated to the U.S. after his father, a professor of Latin American history joined the University of Chicago faculty. Katz returned to Vienna for his first year of undergraduate studies and then completed both an A.B. and an A.M. in economics at the University of Chicago. As an undergraduate, Katz never expected to enter the field of law. He explained, "People I knew who studied law in Europe found it exceedingly dreary." During his junior year, however, Katz recalls, he "stumbled into" a course in constitutional history, where he discovered that "all the things I had been looking for in economics were more fortuitously combined in law: the analytical rigor, the literary elegance, and the real world proximity."
Katz, who is looking forward to teaching criminal law this fall and enterprise organization this winter, says, "I loved practice, but I think I'll love this more. Being able to think about interesting problems and knowing that a client cares enough about them to pay you to do so was certainly an exhilirating feeling. On the other hand, I'll now have the thrill of teaching and the freedom to pursue interests even if they don't happen to match a client's immediate needs. And to get to do that at a place like Michigan seems like the kind of offer Don Corleone is famous for making, one that I just couldn't refuse."
Katz left Michigan Law in 1991 to join the law faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
-- From the University of Michigan Law School's Law Quadrangle Notes, V. 32, Iss. 01 (Fall 1987).