Thursday, October 23, 2008

Real-World Examples: Heller and Dissent Among Justices

I always love it when I see the skills and concepts I try to teach being applied in the real world. One of the key messages I try to impart with 1L’s is the obligation to form an opinion about the cases they read. Ruth McKinney does a wonderful job in Reading Like a Lawyer explaining to students why they need to dialogue with cases they read and honor their opinions of decisions they read. This skill is being applied in real life; two prominent federal judges are expressing their disagreement with the holding in Columbia v. Heller, the D.C. gun case. Judges Wilkinson and Posner have expressed their discontent not only with the holding, but specifically with the reasoning used by Justice Scalia. This presents a fabulous teaching moment; two lower federal court judges are openly disagreeing with the reasoning of a Supreme Court Justice. This disagreement illustrates that it is okay to disagree with people “above” you. Most 1L’s don’t know the outstanding reputations of Judges Wilkenson and Posner; I know many people in the legal community would agree neither judge is less knowledgeable than the current Supreme Court justices. Regardless of your opinion of the people involved, this disagreement presents a valuable teaching moment for students reluctant to disagree with holdings. (RCF)

 For more on the disagreement; see Ruling on Guns Elicits Rebuke From the Right by Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 20, 2008.

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