Thursday, April 30, 2020

Real World Events as Tools to Inform Learning

Often times I hear students suggest that what they are learning in law school seems so unmoored to the reality of the world, especially in the midst of this pandemic.  I wonder.  Could there be a way to connect law school learning to real life experiences? More to the point, to the extent that students feel that way, that might be our fault for failing to use the latest news events as tools to facilitate and enhance our students' learning.  

So, here are a few examples of some rich possibilities to help bring the gap between academics and practice as students finish their online classes and prepare for their upcoming final exams:

I. Retrieval Practice - Fed Civil Procedure (Venue):

Perhaps this ongoing story caught your eye about the Cuban doctors suing the Pan American Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations in federal court in Miami, Florida. Cuban Doctors Who Worked in Brazil Sue International Organization Alleging Forced Labor, Miami Herald (Nov. 30, 2018). 

According to recent press reports, this class action is pending a decision by the judge as to whether to transfer venue to Washington, DC, from Miami, Florida.  

Here's some of the questions that I asked students:  (1) What's the standard for a request to transfer venue?  (2) What's the rule for the initial venue choice? (3) What are the basic requirements for a class action case?

II. Retrieval Practice - Property and Contract Law (Marketable Title & Contract Defenses):

Here's one for the 1L students preparing for final exams.  It seems that a Chinese company is suing a South Korean company in State Court in Delaware to compel (i.e, for an order of specific performance) the defendant to close on a real estate deal to buy a portfolio of 15 luxury U.S. hotels. https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-anbang-unit-suing-south-korea-s-mirae-for-failure-to-close-on-5-8-billion-hotel-portfolio-purchase-11588006092?mod=searchresults.

According to the news article, the defendant asserted two grounds for its refusal to close the deal as justification for its breach of a property sales contract.  First, the defendant argues that the COVID-19 pandemic serves as valid contract defense of impossibility to perform.  Second, the defendant argues that the title for the hotel group was unmarketable at the time of closing earlier this month because a "California individual had secretly created fake deeds [that] purported to transfer ownership of at least six hotels in California [in the hotel group]. Id.

Here's some questions to ask of students?  (1) What's marketable title mean? (2) Is the defendant entitled to a contract defense to prevent specific performance? (3) is this lawsuit a common law contract case or a UCC Article 2 case and why?

III. Retrieval Practice - U.S. Constitutional Law (Equal Protection Clause & Freedom of Speech):

According to a recent media report, several individuals have filed suit against the California governor alleging that the governor ordered the state police to stop issuing permits for protests on the state capital grounds while "noting the Capital in Sacramento has hosted a variety of [other] demonstrations." https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/california-faces-civil-rights-lawsuit-after-highway-patrol-bans-rallies-at-state-capitol-over-coronavirus/ar-BB13lbI7. 

The plaintiffs alleged violations of their First Amendment rights, presumably on grounds that the state capital park area is a public forum in which few restrictions of speech are permissible.  There also seems to be lurking an equal protection issue based on allegations of differential treatment based on the content of protesters' messages.  

Here's a few questions that come to mind?  (1) What's a public forum?  (2) What's the test for speech restrictions on a public forum?  (3) What test would you use for equal protection analysis?

Here's one last suggestion... 

With final exams soon to begin, the news is a great way to (a) mix up practice with a variety of different subject matters; (b) help students issue spot and analyze legal issues; (c) develop and strengthen student confidence as problem-solving subject matter experts; (d) encourage students that what they are learning today is valuable for their tomorrows; (e) energize students in practical ways to incorporate retrieval practice and analysis in their final exam preparations; and, (f) help students see how lawyers, the judicial system, and litigants interact in the public sphere to shape social and political policies.  So, keep your eye out for the latest news.  It almost always has a few legal issues or more buried in it.  (Scott Johns).

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/04/real-world-learning.html

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