Essay: Official Obedience and the Politics of Defining “Law”

Frederick Schauer
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86 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1165

Fawn Hall must not have been reading her Dworkin.

Her name has dissolved into history, but Fawn Hall was front-page news in 1987. Until 1986, she had served as personal secretary to Colonel Oliver North, the man at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal and its unlawful sale of arms to Iran and equally unlawful use of the proceeds to aid the Contra guerillas in Nicaragua. When the scandal broke, Hall was granted immunity and called before a congressional committee to testify about her role in the transactions and the ensuing cover-up. After it became apparent that Hall fully supported Colonel North and more than willingly participated in the alteration and shredding of incriminating documents, Representative Thomas Foley pointedly asked her how she felt about the multiple illegalities in which she and North had been involved. “[S]ometimes you have to go above the written law, I believe,” she answered. And with those eleven words, Hall became a historical footnote and target for the mockery and wrath of countless pundits and political opponents. [MORE]