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Using Classic and Contemporary Literature to Explore Themes in Law and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  administrative discretion proceeds in four stages: 1) define the administrative problem; 2) discover the relevant facts; 3) apply the relevant laws, rules, and court decisions to the facts; and 4) make a responsible administrative decision. 17 Each one of these stages is more complicated in practice, however. For example, in the real world administrators may use their discretion to deny that a problem exists or to exclude certain facts that are perceived as irrelevant but may be important to an effective decision. Administrators also have discretion to ignore the law or apply only certain rules. As Warren points out, discretionary actions are also influenced by past experiences, environmental pressures, politics, and personal values. 18 My students must read Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant and apply the four-stage model of the ideal use of discretion to determine if the colonial police officer used his discretion properly. The students usually note how difficult it was for the officer to discern the facts when he arrives on the scene. His preliminary decision to fetch the elephant rifle influenced later actions. Students also recognize the environmental pressures placed on the officer from the crowd and the influence of his views toward imperialism on his decision making. There was a lively discussion in class as to whether the officer made a responsible administrative decision. The officer had the legal authority to shoot the elephant but at times, taking no action may be the best use of discretion. My second example draws from the law and literature readings. “A Jury of Her Peers,” written by Susan Keating Glaspell, was first published in 1917 as a short story adaptation of Glaspell’s one-act play Trifles. Inspired by events witnessed during her years as a court reporter in Iowa, Glaspell crafted a story in which a couple of rural women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, deduce the details of a murder in which a woman, Minnie Wright, has killed her husband. 17 Warren, Kenneth. Administrative Law in the Political System. 4 th ed. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, p. 346. 18 Warren, p. 344. Page | 17

Authors: Fliter, John.
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administrative discretion proceeds in four stages: 1) define the administrative problem; 2)
discover the relevant facts; 3) apply the relevant laws, rules, and court decisions to the facts; and
4) make a responsible administrative decision.
Each one of these stages is more complicated in
practice, however. For example, in the real world administrators may use their discretion to deny
that a problem exists or to exclude certain facts that are perceived as irrelevant but may be
important to an effective decision. Administrators also have discretion to ignore the law or apply
only certain rules. As Warren points out, discretionary actions are also influenced by past
experiences, environmental pressures, politics, and personal values.
My students must read Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant and apply the four-stage model of
the ideal use of discretion to determine if the colonial police officer used his discretion properly.
The students usually note how difficult it was for the officer to discern the facts when he arrives
on the scene. His preliminary decision to fetch the elephant rifle influenced later actions.
Students also recognize the environmental pressures placed on the officer from the crowd and the
influence of his views toward imperialism on his decision making. There was a lively discussion
in class as to whether the officer made a responsible administrative decision. The officer had the
legal authority to shoot the elephant but at times, taking no action may be the best use of
discretion.
My second example draws from the law and literature readings. “A Jury of Her Peers,”
written by Susan Keating Glaspell, was first published in 1917 as a short story adaptation of
Glaspell’s one-act play Trifles. Inspired by events witnessed during her years as a court reporter
in Iowa, Glaspell crafted a story in which a couple of rural women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters,
deduce the details of a murder in which a woman, Minnie Wright, has killed her husband.
17
Warren, Kenneth. Administrative Law in the Political System. 4
th
ed. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, p. 346.
18
Warren, p. 344.
Page | 17


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