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How the Legal System Works: Anatomy of a Case

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

This course analyzes the current legal system by tracing each step of a legal case, from the occurrence of the event to final appeals. The objectives are to create an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of resolving disputes and punishing crime through the courts, to make students more sophisticated consumers of news about legal issues, to help them determine whether they should pursue a career in the law, and to understand the role of the legal process in American history and social development.

These objectives are met by supplementing the chronology of the selected case as it goes through the courts with studies of the ways in which the Supreme Court reflects societal changes; examining the way judges decide cases; comparing the outcomes of trials in the 1950s and this decade; probing notable contemporary torts outcomes that are commonly thought of as laughable or pointless; examining the expansion and contraction of student rights since the 1960s; experiencing the role of rhetoric and oral argument in the process; and finally synthesizing these elements to become a truly discerning critic of the legal system in America.

The course requirements include out-of-class readings, participation in an in-class oral argument, submission (and possible revision) of a 6-7 page research paper, and active participation in class discussions. The readings in the course include three or four legal opinions plus samples of a legal brief, a deposition, a motion, and an appellate argument, all of which will be demystified in class with slowly paced explanations.