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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Teaching Civil Procedure With A Simulated Case File: My 90% Solution

The following post is by David Oppenheimer (Berkeley) and is sponsored by West Academic.

Civil Procedure is reportedly the least popular 1L course. Why? Because it lacks a familiar context. Our students arrive with some understanding, however faulty, of the role of contracts, the existence of property, the problem of crime, and the phenomenon of personal injury. But Civil Procedure is a great mystery to them.
A common response is to provide context by organizing the course around a semester-long simulation. Several case-files are now available from legal publishers, all of them good. Each helps students see how Civil Procedure works in the real world. But most require so much work for the students and faculty that they push aside other important material, and as the number of units we devote to Civil Procedure shrinks, this is increasingly challenging.

My response is the 90% solution – provide the students with pleadings and motion exercises that are 90% complete, so that they can focus on the core problems.

My 90% simulation is Oppenheimer, Leiwant, Schonberg, and Wheeler, Patt v. Donner: A Simulated Casefile for Learning Civil Procedure (Foundation Press 2014; 2nd ed. forthcoming spring 2019). (Leiwant, Schonberg, and Wheeler are former students/RAs who helped me develop the casefile.) The case begins on the first day of class, with a fourteen-minute videotape of a client interview. Paula Patt is an anthropology graduate student who just arrived in Berkeley. She applied to rent an apartment, and believes she was rejected because she has a five-year old daughter. She has come to the Berkeley Law Clinic for advice.

Over the course of the semester the students, working in rotating groups with the casefile materials and on-line videos, will: draft a federal housing discrimination complaint; switch sides and move to dismiss the complaint as insufficient; move for a preliminary injunction when another apartment in the building becomes vacant; move to dismiss the absentee landlord/defendant for lack of personal jurisdiction; oppose the motion; move to amend the complaint to add a supplemental state law claim; move to intervene; move to compel discovery, or for a protective order; move for summary judgment; and negotiate a settlement.

Since each of the exercises is 90% complete when assigned. The students don’t spend time trying to figure out what a pleading or motion looks like, formatting the table of cases, or drafting the preliminary matters. They complete a nearly finished pleading or brief by drafting the key argument, thus applying the cases we’re studying in class to the facts provided in interviews and documents found in the file.

To learn more about the materials, and to download the videos and sample exercise answers, go here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 1, 2019 at 09:31 AM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink

Comments

This is exactly what students need! Experiential education. Real world experiences. Pleadings from day one. Drafting pleadings. Scaffolding to concentrate on what's important.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Jan 1, 2019 2:08:31 PM

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