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Friday, December 19, 2014

Civ. Pro. is the New Black

And...they're off!  My 1Ls just began taking their exam, which I titled "Civ. Pro. is the New Black."  Eschewing Ferguson-style controversy (I hope), I'm ruining using the TV show "Orange is the New Black" as the basis for the fact pattern.  Piper and Alex are in a fight, the Correction Officers put Piper in the SHU, and there is some tainted meat sold by "Felon Meats, Inc." that makes Piper sick.  Piper sues Alex, the prison (run by a private company, Prisons R Us), Felon Meats, and one of the Correction Officers.   Various other prisoners attempt to intervene.  I made sure to vet the exam with someone who doesn't know the show so students who have never seen it are not disadvantaged.

I always feel nervous while my students are taking their exams.  Perhaps I'm just reflecting their nerves; more likely I'm afraid that I have not really taught them much over the semester, which their answers might reflect.

In this way, I suppose the exam is also an assessment of me as a teacher.  Here's to hoping I pass!

Posted by Josh Douglas on December 19, 2014 at 01:51 PM in Civil Procedure, Teaching Law | Permalink


Wow. So many people who do not seem to understand the purpose of a law school exam. Do you think a torts exam must take account of every statute and doctrine that exists in a particular State that might affect an actual tort claim? Must a criminal law exam ask students to identify every single crime that might have taken place, even those never discussed during the course of a semester? Of course not. That's because law school is not designed to teach students to know THE LAW but to teach students HOW TO THINK. Teach a student how to use her brain and she will teach herself the law over the course of a lifetime. Teach a student about the PLRA and she will be dumbfounded by the first case she handles that doesn't happen to involve that statute -- which is to say her very first case in practice and most of those thereafter.

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | Jan 6, 2015 7:36:31 PM

And if you buy that story, I've got a bridge to sell you in Arizona...

Posted by: Blondie | Dec 22, 2014 10:04:22 PM

Don't fear, my friends! The fact pattern (which, as anon pointed out, none of you have actually seen unless you are my students) avoided issues of immunity, PLRA, AEDPA, etc. (I do have some practical experience with these issues.) I also vetted it by two other profs before giving it to the students, both of whom have also dealt with prisoner litigation so would know if the question raised these concerns. So you can sleep easy -- I was aware of prisoner issues when writing it and avoided those thorny problems, testing them solely on the fascinating details of personal jurisdiction and the like. Who knew Civil Procedure could be so controversial!

But I appreciate the feedback! Happy holidays to all!

Posted by: Josh Douglas | Dec 22, 2014 8:54:55 PM

Obviously we have not seen the question but unless you bracketed the immunities issues, this seems like a fact pattern that is more appropriate for a section 1983 course, or a class where section 1983 is taught. Seems odd that you would share it too, which could lead to students raising questions about the exam. One can only hope all went well.

Posted by: anon | Dec 22, 2014 8:34:49 PM


This is embarrassing.

Do you teach the PLRA? Various immunity doctrines? All sorts of other things that would be out of place in a first-year Civ Pro class? There's no good answer to those questions.

You should be ashamed.

Posted by: anondo | Dec 22, 2014 2:13:31 PM

Do your students know the PLRA?

Posted by: TS | Dec 21, 2014 11:24:37 AM

Hopefully no one taking the exam has actually spent their first semester learning about prison litigation! (which is how I actually did spend my first semester... and the five that followed).

Posted by: steve | Dec 21, 2014 6:47:14 AM

Hopefully there is no one out there practicing who is in the habit of using things they learned on a 1L final without double-checking.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Dec 20, 2014 3:15:10 PM

Prison litigation on a civpro final for 1Ls? Do you know how complicated that gets even to those who do it? You may unwittingly have written a test where the issues and answers you seek are wrong and traps for the unwary.

Posted by: Jojo | Dec 19, 2014 10:50:56 PM

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