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Monday, April 27, 2009

Assigning Cases Decided Mid-Semester?

In constitutional law this week I'm teaching a Supreme Court standing case from this Term, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, to supplement the students' casebook. I decided the case was valuable enough to add it, even though we will cover it well out of turn from our other coverage of standing, which our casebook placed at the start of this semester. Was this case covered in many con law courses this semester? What criteria do professors use--or from the student perspective, appear to use--when deciding whether a hot-off-the-press case or other legal authority is worth assigning as a mid- or end-of-semester supplement?

Posted by Brooks Holland on April 27, 2009 at 03:47 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Teaching Law | Permalink


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I think the logic is that learning all of Criminal Proceedure is daunting enough as it is without having to totally reformulate one's whole understanding of one of the major topics just a week before the Final.

It's a bit of a theoretical difference anyway because even before Gant, our State (New York) didn't follow Belton/Thornton anyway so nothing has really changed for the law in our state after Gant in any case. (See top post at my blog for more about that).

Posted by: Benjamin Wolf | Apr 28, 2009 5:21:04 AM

In addition to Arizona v. Gant modifying Belton/Thornton, the Court appears poised to overrule Michigan v. Jackson any day now (following oral argument in Montejo v. Louisiana, the Court requested – sua sponte – supplemental briefing on whether to overrule Jackson). That's an even messier issue than Gant, because theoretically Montejo could come down even the very morning of the exam. Not really sure what you do in these circumstances. Insisting that students apply old law that's no longer valid seems like a really bad idea. Probably best just to avoid having such issues on the test at all, but is it a good idea to tell students that they just don't have to know the law in this area?

Posted by: A | Apr 28, 2009 2:33:21 AM

In my experience, my professors have used the following test: "Is there enough time before the final exam for my students to learn the new law without getting confused?"

My Criminal Procedure professor has told us to take our final exam on Thursday as if the AZ v. Gant decision had not been decided. He told us to assume, for the purposes of the exam that Belton and Thornton are still good law.

I have friends taking Legal Ethics right now. Halfway through the semester, New York adopted a version of the ABA Model Rules so the New York Code of Professional Responsibility became inapplicable halfway through the semester. But because the change was early enough in the semester and it was expected way in advance, they are going to be tested on the new rules.

Posted by: Benjamin Wolf | Apr 27, 2009 4:29:55 PM

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