Thursday, July 12, 2012
Crim Pro: How To Tame the Beast?
I’m teaching investigative criminal procedure this summer. My practice background and research agenda make this subject very familiar to me, but I have taught the course only a couple of previous times. Each time, I have felt more than a little challenged by the volume of material to cover. I easily could spend a whole semester on search and seizure law alone. Add the mountain of material on the exclusionary rule, confessions, identification procedures, and other suggested topics, and the semester begins to feel like a daily sprint through our casebook—my current casebook offers nearly 900 jam-packed pages of potential material. The accelerated pace of summer school has intensified this feeling.
In crim pro, so much of this material seems too important to omit, and the Supreme Court keeps adding important new stuff every year. Yet, I do not want to sacrifice depth for breadth. How do other criminal procedure folks work through this volume of material without making students turn to commercial outlines to synthesize it all for them? I could lecture my way more efficiently through the semester, but I am mindful of Rick Hills’ recent post. Nevertheless, I also am not good at pursuing “productive confusion” efficiently. Do people cut-and-slash the material in ways they could recommend, or do something else to make this course efficient for rigorious study?
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I'm sure everyone does this differently. But for what it's worth, yes, I cut and slash. In the 900 or so pages of the Kamisar Basic Crim pro book, for example, I would say I assign about 650 pages from it plus another 100 pages of outside reading. In part I get there through cutting and slashing within subjects. I might skip over a few notes that aren't necessary, or a case that I don't think needs coverage. Also, there are particular subjects that I skip or minimize. For example, I skip a large chunk of the right to counsel materials, in part because I think a lot of the cases end up with rules that are more of historical interest than necessary for practice today. I also skip the special needs cases, skip the statutory surveillance materials, and give only an abbreviated version of the grand jury materials.
Second, I don't hesitate to lecture about the material in a way to put the cases in context. There are so many cases that it really helps to give students charts and background of the basic framework of the doctrine so they can put it in context. I think that tends to avoid a lot of confusion, as students know the basic doctrinal boxes they are working in.
Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 12, 2012 7:14:40 PM
Thanks, Orin--helpful insight! Some of my angst I'm sure comes from teaching the course only once every couple of years or so. I just haven't gotten to experiment on a consistent basis with what to prioritize. But I know the field well enough outside of teaching it that I feel like I should have better command over how to organize the course.
Now, that handy doctrinal chart you mentioned ... feeling very proprietary about it? :)
Posted by: Brooks | Jul 12, 2012 7:32:55 PM
Nope, not proprietary at all. Here are two charts I have used, although they're a few years old. It's nothing fancy, but students have told me that these sorts of charts are very helpful. As always YMMV.
Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 13, 2012 2:46:01 AM
Thank you, Orin!
Posted by: Brooks | Jul 13, 2012 10:52:32 AM
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