Readings in American Law

Credit Hours: 2-3
Semesters Taught (subject to change): Spring

What is the point of reading and talking about a bunch of stuff from some bygone era? Actually, there are at least three points: (1) to gain deeper understanding and appreciation of an important period in legal history; (2) to practice the careful study of law in context; and (3) to enjoy one of the most enriching of lawyerly activities – reading about law and then probing its meaning and function with engaged colleagues. There is a lot of reading, and pre-class thinking, but if you like those activities you will like this course, because there isn’t much else required (given that the quizzes described below will be pretty easy for anyone who does the reading). Grades: Your grade is based on closed-book quizzes and participation. Quizzes count for 1/3 of the grade. A short quiz consisting of a few straightforward factual questions about obvious topics in the assigned reading is given at the start of most sessions in which we discuss new material. The questions are designed merely to determine whether you have, in fact, done the reading and paid attention. They are easy to answer for anyone who has done the reading but are likely unanswerable by someone who has not. Participation counts for 2/3 of the grade. Let us be clear about this up front: Evaluation of participation in the course is inevitably largely subjective, which means that if you do not like the participation grade you receive there will be no basis for challenging it. Having said that, you are unlikely to get a bad grade if you come to every class prepared to make useful contributions, do in fact make those contributions, and respectfully listen to and comment on the contributions of others. It is in part because of those expectations that there is an electronics ban for this course. No one will be able to Google whatever we are talking about in class and then read something off a computer screen, passing it off as his or her own thought. All of us will have to read and reflect and perhaps even do a little bit of our own research before class in order to be confident that we will have something useful to share. What a wonderful thing that will be!