Assignment 1 (first draft due in class on October 1)

  • 1,500 – 1,800 words;
  • first draft (bring three copies) due Tuesday, October 1
  • Second draft due Tuesday, October 8

In the first formal assignment we’ll focus on exploring legal principles through cases, and explaining those principles to an outside audience. So as you draft this piece, try to speak to an intelligent, interested reader who is not in the class. Your goal is to help such a reader understand both the case(s) you’re interested in and the deeper principles at work.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but for now consider a few options:

  • You might revise and deepen one of your case briefs, or write a brief on a new case following essentially the same format we have already been using. But your goal here is to open your examination of the case to its deeper implications: that means, probably, considering how the case could be related to other cases, and considering the various legal ramifications of different ways of deciding the case. Just remember: you’re not trying to add more to the discussion – you’re trying to make it deeper, and you’re trying to aim it at an audience beyond our classroom.
  • Or, you might set out to explore a principle, and move to the cases that will help you examine it. You could write a paper, for example, examining the various ways in which people who have definitely committed a crime can be excused for it. At what point is doing wrong considered a good thing? For what reasons do we excuse people, even when we know they have done the wrong thing? When, and for what reasons, do we consider a nonexculpatory excuse? Explore these issues by showing us examples, and try to bring your reader to an understanding of the principles, and of the limitations of the principles in practice.

    You could write a similar paper on another principle. Try explaining the difference between – and the significance of – the “reasonable person” standard and the “reasonable person in similar circumstances” standard. Or try to explain why it matters, in cases of intoxication or indoctrination, whether a court applies a “but for” standard or some other standard to decide who has an excuse.  (I could make a list here of other principles that have come up:  the legality principle, the maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse, etc.) Again, the point remains the same: try to help a reader outside the class understand the importance of the principle, and then the ways in which that principle can be addressed.

That will do for now, but you get the point. Write a paper about what’s interesting to you: make a claim, tie it to concrete examples, and try to explore the things that aren’t obvious. And have some fun. That’s not entirely against the rules.

Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013, 5:39 AM