Henry Weihofen Chair in Law
B.A. 1975, Ph.D., 1986, University of California, Berkeley
J.D. 1978, University of California, Hastings College of Law
Member of the California Bar
Christian Fritz joined the UNM law faculty in 1987 to introduce legal history to first-year students, a new concept to legal education. Even today, few law schools offer such a course.
Fritz had just become the first person to complete a program at the University of California in which he earned a Ph.D. in history at Berkeley along with a law degree from Hastings College of Law. At the UNM law school, he teaches a variety of legal history courses along with Property. He contributes a deep knowledge of legal and constitutional history along with an exhaustive research style.
In addition to numerous articles, book chapters and reviews, Fritz has written books on legal history, including Federal Justice in California: The Court of Ogden Hoffman, 1851-1891. In October 2007, Cambridge University Press published his long-term study: American Sovereigns: The People and America’s Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War.
American Sovereigns: The People and America’s Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War challenges traditional American constitutional history, theory, and jurisprudence that sees today’s constitutionalism as linked by an unbroken chain to the 1787 Federal constitutional convention. It examines the idea that after the American Revolution, a collectivity – the people – would rule as the sovereign. Heated political controversies within the states and at the national level over what it meant for the people to be the sovereign, and how that collective sovereign could express its will were not resolved prior to the Civil War. The idea of the people as the sovereign both unified and divided Americans in thinking about government and the basis of the Union. Today’s constitutionalism is not a natural inheritance, but the product of choices Americans made between shifting understandings about themselves as a collective sovereign.