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Breaking the Ice: Professor uncovers truth behind ‘intimate lies’

Todd Nelson//March 18, 2021//

Breaking the Ice: Professor uncovers truth behind ‘intimate lies’

Todd Nelson//March 18, 2021//

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Name: Jill Hasday

Title: Professor, University of Minnesota Law School

Education: B.A., history, Yale University; J.D., Yale Law School

University of Minnesota Law School professor Jill Hasday wants the law to offer the same protections to those deceived in intimate relationships as it does when strangers commit fraud.

Hasday makes the case in her book, “Intimate Lies and the Law,” which she said is “the first to explore the hidden law governing deception in dating, sex, marriage and family life.”

Beyond denying remedies to deceived intimates, the law can protect the deceivers and incentivizes their deception, Hasday said. Emotional injuries get undervalued while financial harm goes overlooked.

The book is not a memoir, Hasday said, and her personal life did not inspire it.

Instead, Hasday began exploring the subject after discovering a 1930s case in which a woman found that her husband was a shoe store clerk, not the owner of multiple shoe stores he claimed to be. The woman sued for an annulment on the grounds of fraud. But in an era before no-fault divorce, the judge held that she couldn’t escape a marriage because she had been deceived into it.

Intimate deception is widespread, driving so many novels, movie and song plots, Hasday said, that writers could mine her book for ideas.

Hasday, who focuses academically on anti-discrimination law and equality, has testified twice before Minnesota House committees in favor of a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their pay history.

Though paying women less than men for the same job is illegal, wage gaps persist, Hasday said. Someone underpaid at her first job can have that follow her to subsequent jobs when employers ask about pay history, perpetuating pay discrimination. In the 18 states that prohibit pay history questions, pay for job changers increased 5 percent overall, 8 percent for women and 13 percent for Blacks, according to a study.

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: By asking me a question.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a professor and a lawyer. When I discovered that you could do both at the same time, I was all set. I started teaching law right after my judicial clerkship ended. I enjoy the life of the mind and the opportunity to think things through with fewer interruptions. At the same time, researching and writing about the law grounds you in the world as it is. The law isn’t just about theory. It’s about the rules that govern all of our lives.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: I’m a voracious reader, but I return to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” every year. It’s the perfect novel.

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: I’m annoyed when people write in library books.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: Teaching and writing.

Q: Least favorite aspect?

A: Meetings.

Q: What’s a favorite activity away from your job?

A: Outside of work, my priorities each day are to spend time with my family, exercise and read.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do there?

A: Instead of visiting a tourist attraction, I would rather take a friend on a long walk through the neighborhood and have a great conversation.

Q: What’s a misconception that others have about your work as an academic?

A: Some people think that academics spend the summers on vacation. But the summer is actually the best time for us to research and write.

Q: What’s a favorite novel, movie or TV show about lawyers or the legal profession?

A: Does everyone say “My Cousin Vinny”? I love the scene where Vinny’s clever questioning of a witness reveals that the witness’s recollections are not as reliable as they first appeared to be. To relate this point back to my book, it’s not that the witness was being deceptive, meaning intentionally misleading. The witness believed (incorrectly) that he was giving an accurate account.

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