DEMOCRACY & EQUALITY - ACTIVITIES - 2006 SPRING QUARTER

The following are the primary academic activities of the program, aimed at honing your critical thinking, speaking and writing skills:

Reading. You should read the assigned material carefully and analytically.

Case Analysis. Using the Socratic method, we will analyze court cases about equal protection: what were the specific legal issues before the court, what was its holding, what was its rationale and how did it change Fourteenth Amendment law? One dictionary definition of the "Socratic method": "The method of instruction by questions and answers, as adopted by Socrates in his disputations, leading pupils either to a foreseen conclusion or to contradict themselves." This, instead of lectures, is the standard method of instruction used in law schools. While it is quite effective to help students develop their critical thinking skills, it can be quite intimidating in the hands of unforgiving instructors such as Professor Kingsfield in the 1970ís film and TV series, "The Paper Chase." On the other hand, the Socratic method is decidedly much more interesting than a lecture about the law. In this class, we will use a benign version of the Socratic method, hopefully avoiding its menacing tendencies. Only if you come to class unprepared will you likely feel ineffectual or distressed.

Seminar. This is different from case analysis. For one thing, we will not be using the Socratic method, which is strictly controlled and directed by the faculty member. Second, in seminar we will be emphasizing issues, and hopefully students will be in control most of the time. Always come to seminar well prepared so that you can be in control.

Writing. In addition to the appellate brief, described below, the following writing will be required:

Case Briefs. You will be required to "brief" each major case we read. "Brief" here does not mean a lengthy writing as in a legal brief. To brief a case means to succinctly summarize each of the following, preferably using one sentence for each: Who were the parties to the case? What is the issue (legal question) involved? What was the holding (decision) of the court? What was its rationale? Please use a separate page for each case. Your case brief should take up no more than one-third to one-half of the front side of the page. It need not be typed, but you should write legibly. You should use the remainder of the page, front and back (and additional pages, if necessary), to take notes about this case in class. During the first workshop of the first week, you will be taught how to do a case brief.

Web Discussion.  Each of you will be part of an online discussion group (of 8 - 9 students). This program incorporates Web work for three main reasons: to address learning styles and strengths sometimes marginalized by traditional seminars, to enrich the seminar discussions by giving you structures for developing your agenda before class, and to provide a space for developing your computer literacy skills (while furthering work on critical thinking). During week one, you will receive specific technical instruction on how to post comments.

Appellate Brief. You will be required to write a formal appellate brief on an actual equal protection case recently decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals and reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court. This appellate work will be collaborative, with each student teaming up with another student to serve as "co-counsel" for either the appellant or the appellee in the assigned case. You will learn how to write the different components of the brief in workshops throughout the quarter.

Oral Arguments. You, your co-counsel, and the opposing counsel will present oral arguments on your case before a panel of judges of the Evergreen Supreme Court. Your oral arguments will be based on the written arguments you will have made in your appellate brief. You will also have the opportunity to serve as a judge to hear your peersí oral arguments and to render a decision in their case. This all may sound scary, but by the time it comes for you to give your oral argument at the end of the quarter, you will be well prepared. This will be a collaborative activity with lots of help along the way.

Final Examination. The final week of class there will be a written final examination. It will consist of a hypothetical case involving equal protection issues. You will be asked to decide the case. Donít try to cram for this test; it wonít work. If you do your academic work well throughout the quarter, you will be more than ready to render a decision with stellar legal analysis.

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