Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Each spring semester, I lead a structured study group primarily focusing on Constitutional Law. For the last few years, I’ve started the semester off with the same “standing” exercise with students, and it’s been a big hit. I begin by drawing a pictograph on the whiteboard consisting of three big empty rectangles, side-by-side. I then challenge the students to fill-in the chart with concepts from their standing chapter in a way that makes sense, graphically.
I encourage them to start by identifying the three main concepts from the standing material. After a few minutes, the students come up with their list: standing (generally), ripeness, and mootness. If they get stuck, I encourage them to look at their book’s Table of Contents for hints. I then ask them to place each concept in chronological order. If I have enough dry erase markers, I’ll write the ripeness material in red, since no case that is deemed unripe will get before the court. I put the standing material in green indicating that those who have standing are cleared to argue their case before the court, and reserve yellow for the more nuanced category of mootness.
Next, I ask them to identify the test from the casebook that is associated with each principle. This could obviously differ depending on the casebook, but, in my experience, most constitutional law books stick to the same main cases. I sometimes will write the case name under the principle, but no more. I don’t write the specific test on the board, but instead give the students time to review and edit the test in their notes or to add the test if it is missing from their notes.
Finally, I draw an arrow going from “mootness” to “standing,” and ask them what the arrow represents. After a few guesses, I give them a hint if they need it; I tell them to think about the abortion cases that they read. Eventually someone figures it out, and we have a conversation about the concept that some legal issues are “capable of repetition, yet evading review” which means that although the issue is technically moot, the party may be deemed to have standing anyway.
I end the exercise by reminding the students that the picture is an overly-simplified version of some very complex constitutional concepts, and that in order to be successful on the exam, they are going to need to continue to build upon what we started in the review session.
The entire exercise usually takes about 20-30 minutes, leaving enough time in a single review session to also complete a few pre-selected practice multiple-choice questions that focus on the standing principles to help solidify their newly-organized standing rules. (Kirsha Trychta)