Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Q&A with Jill Elaine Hasday

Jill Elaine Hasday is the author of the new book Intimate Lies and the Law. She also has written Family Law Reimagined, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Harvard Law Review and the Stanford Law Review. She is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and the Centennial Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Q: How do you define intimate deception?

A: My book examines deception in dating, sex, marriage, and family life and explores the law’s response to this duplicity, which is usually to deny remedies to deceived intimates and protect their deceivers.

By deception, I mean intentional acts or omissions—including statements, deeds, and silence—designed to make another person believe something that the deceiver himself does not believe to be true.  

Lies may be the type of deception that springs first to mind, but deception can take many other forms. For example, deliberate omissions with the intent to mislead can perform the same functions as lies and may be a more common type of deception.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Intimate Lies and the Law?

A: As I note in the book’s dedication, my loved ones did not inspire me to write this book. 

Instead, I developed the idea for Intimate Lies and the Law while teaching and writing about family law. I would occasionally come across cases where a deceitful intimate inflicted grievous damage and got away with it because the court refused to allow the plaintiff to access ordinary legal remedies for deception. I thought that was extremely interesting and the topic stuck with me as something I wanted to explore.

Q: You observe that people have not paid much attention to the law governing intimate deception.  What are some reasons why?

A: This book uncovers a legal field that has been hidden in plain sight, revealing an enormous body of law that has not been systematically examined. 

One potential explanation for the lack of attention is that thinking about intimate deception can sometimes be uncomfortable. Readers may find that the stories in this book alternate between comedy and tragedy, hilarity and heartbreak, and sometimes embody both extremes at once.

Q: What would you like to see improved when it comes to the law surrounding intimate deception?

A: The law should extend more help to people injured by deceitful intimates and offer less protection to their deceivers. Judges should begin with a rebuttable presumption that deceived intimates will have access to the same legal remedies as people equivalently deceived outside of intimacy. 

Legislatures and courts should also transform how they regulate intimate deception before litigation begins, countering the incentives to deceive, making it more difficult for deceivers to accomplish their plans, and limiting the damage that duplicitous intimates can inflict.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am starting a new book about how America (mis)remembers women’s unfinished struggles for equality.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Intimate Lies and the Law is for anyone who has ever experienced, committed, or gossiped about deception within an intimate relationship.  In other words, it is for everyone.  To find out more, you can visit my website

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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