Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paris and Kalei... Help People Escape From Guantanamo Bay?

Legislative Hearing is a time when senators will meet to listen to representatives from different groups speak on a particular topic.

We will simulate a small-scale legislative hearing on the Guantanamo Bay issue.

Guiding Question: Should the United States government fund the closure of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center?

Each of you will play the part of a representative from a specific interest group. We will use this format to examine the legal issues at stake related to Guantanamo Bay. You will work individually to complete your portion of the assignment.
Use the websites listed on your worksheets to complete your research. However, be aware that some of the links on the pages are a little outdated. If a link does not work, search the website for the information you need. Use search terms ("Guantanamo Bay", "torture", etc.) to find answers for your question.

The worksheet is due at the start of tomorrow's class. It is worth a total of 35 points -- 5 points per question.

Tomorrow, we will hold our hearing. The procedure for the hearing is below:
  1. The chairperson will call the hearing to order. She will then state the purpose of the hearing.
  2. Each senator will make a brief opening statment expressing her expectations for the proceedings.
  3. Each representative will have an opportunity to make an opening statement. After each representative speaks, the senators will have the chance to question her/him.
  4. Opening statements should take 1-2 minutes. Questions and responses should take 5-6 minutes.
  5. Finally, the senators will discuss their decision.
Each student will receive a 20 point presentation grade based on a rubric which will be shown in class tomorrow.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paris and Kalei Go to Guantanamo Bay

New Guantanamo Bay detainees arrive at Camp X-Ray.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, few things have been more controversial than the Guantanámo Bay Detention Center.

Part 1: Background (12 points)
Over the next few days, we will examine the detention center's legality. We'll start by exploring two web resources:

Use these two sources to respond to the following questions on loose leaf:

  1. What is Guantánamo Bay? Where is it located?
  2. When was the prison established there?
  3. How many detainees are currently held in the prison (at the time these sources were last updated)?
  4. What did President Obama do with regard to the prison shortly after he took office in January 2009?
  5. What are some of the proposed options for having trials for the prisoners?
  6. What are some options for where to send current prisoners if Guantánamo is closed?
Part 2: Exploring Reasons for Closure (Or to Keep it Open) (9 points)
  1. Create a list of reasons people might want to close Guantanamo Bay. Come up with at least three solid reasons.
  2. Create a list of reasons people might want to keep Guantanamo Bay open. Come up with a list of at least three reasons.
  3. What makes the decision to keep Guantanamo Bay open (or to close it) a complicated one?
Part 3: Is it Constitutional? (9 points)
Examine the U.S. Constitution. You can find the full text of the Constitution, with links to the amendments, at Cornell University Law School's website.

Decide which articles and amendments apply to the Guantanamo Bay situation. Write them down, then explain in specific terms how each applies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lt. Connolly's Reality

As a follow-up to your arguments our recent project, you have one last task to do: find out whether or not women are actually allowed to serve in Special Forces in the U.S. Our case is based on real life precedent. Find that precedent and/or current articles about the topic.

Start here.


  • Locate one source
  • Summarize it
  • Relate it to our topic
Be prepared to share your information with the group.

Monday, May 7, 2012

2nd Amendment Wrap-Up

First of all, do not forget -- your final papers are due printed at the start of tomorrow's class. If you do not bring a printed version of your paper with you to class, it will be late.

Today we will finish our examination of 2nd Amendment Law. You will work in teams of twos to prepare an argument based on the law and precedent, as well as any other arguments we have discussed in class.

Part 1: Anticipatory Set
Complete the following in a Word document:
  1. With your partner, decide whether or not you believe the U.S. must alter the national standard for gun control. Write an opinion based on the information we discussed in class. Refer specifically to any relevant materials. This should be approximately 1-2 sentences.
  2. Make a list of additional information you would need to know to improve your understanding of the issue. Ex.: Do you know the SCOTUS' past rulings on the matter? Do you know what conditions are in each state? Do you want to examine the issue on a local, state, or national level, or all three?
  3. Use the sources below to locate two court cases relevant to our current examination of the law. They must be cases we have not looked at as a class. Record the case titles under #3. Ideally, these should be cases that support your point of view. If they do not, you may need to alter your position.
Part 2: Briefing a Case (4 points each section, 20 points total)
To brief a case, you need to consider and answer the following questions:
  1. Case: what is the name of the case? Where can the full case record be found? In what year was the case decided?
  2. Facts: provide a summary of the incident that brought the case before the court.  Include a description of the crime and the circumstances causing the earlier court’s decision to be appealed.  **Describe what previous courts ruled on the case (if possible) and explain the ruling(s).
  3. Issue: What are the central legal issues the court must decide to arrive at a decision?
  4. Holding: What did the court decide? What is the outcome?
  5. Reasoning: Why does the court decide the way it does? What is its logic and analysis of the facts?
You also need to read and provide a summary of the majority and dissenting opinions (judges explain the ruling and why they agree or disagree with it) under the “reasoning” section.

Questions to ask when reading a case:  (taken from
Note: You do not need to answer these questions in the order written to complete the assignment. They must all be items you consider during when reading the case.

  1. What facts and circumstances brought these parties to court? 
  2. Are there buzzwords in the facts that suggest an issue? 
  3. Is the court deciding a question of fact - i.e. the parties are in dispute over what happened - or is it a question of law - i.e. the court is unsure which rule to apply to these facts? 
  4. What are the non-issues? 
  5. What are the elements that prove the rule? 
  6. What are the exceptions to the rule? 
  7. From what authority does it come? Common law, statute, new rule? 
  8. What's the underlying public policy behind the rule? 
  9. Are there social considerations? 
  10. Which facts help prove which elements of the rule? 
  11. Why are certain facts relevant? 
  12. How do these facts satisfy this rule?
  13. What types of facts are applied to the rule? 
  14. How do these facts further the public policy underlying this rule? 
  15. What's the counter-argument for another solution? 
  16. What's the holding of the case? 
  17. Has the holding modified the existing rule of law? 
  18. What is the procedural effect of the holding? Is the case overturned, upheld or remanded for retrial? 
  19. Does the holding further the underlying policy of the rule? 
  20. Do you agree with the outcome of the case?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One last, important memo

We received one last memo from our senior partner, Brandi Bickering, regarding some concerns raised by an important client. You can find the memo here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Part 1: Statement of Opinion (32 points)
Now that you've completed your research, you will create the first firm statement of your opinion. This is still not yet written in stone -- it could change based on what your partners say. Ultimately, your group will share one thesis.

Essentially, you are completing this sentence:
"Ebbets Chavez & Kofax ___________________ represent Lt. Amy Connolly before the U.S. Supreme Court because _________________, _____________________ and ____________________."
You may change the wording/format of this statement as long as it includes the basic information given.

We'll use this rubric to grade your theses.

Part 3: Working on the Final Product
You must persuade the government to agree with your argument. In order to do so, you will create a position paper which adheres to the following criteria:
  • Save your work to the Y:\Ramin Law and Government
  • Name the file "Your Last Names - Connolly Recommendation"
  • Include the each group member's name, as well as the complete PSM heading, at the start of your document
  • Title your paper
  • At least 5 paragraphs in length (Intro, 3 Body, Conclusion)
  • Includes a thesis statement modeled after the one above
  • Persuasively argues your position, following the requirements illustrated in Brandi Bickering's memo. You can find additional guidelines for your work here.
  • Includes a 5-source Work Cited page (graded based on this rubric), following MLA format (you should have most of your citations already!)
Your rough draft is due e-mailed to me at the end of tomorrow's class period (5/1/12). It is a project grade, and will be based on this rubric (the same one that will be used for your final product -- Due Friday, 5/4/12).

Each person will also receive an individual project grade for his/her specific body paragraph based on this rubric.

Who does what?
  • Each person should research and write one body paragraph
  • The group should work together to draft the introduction paragraph today and the conclusion paragraph tomorrow
  • The group is responsible for proper transitions, etc.
  • The group should work together to compile the Works Cited page
Tomorrow's Expectations:
  • Finalize rough draft, including conclusion paragraph
  • Analyze presentation requirements for Friday's class

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bickering's 4th Memo

Lt. Connolly was once a cadet just like this young woman.
Should she have the right to serve in U.S. Special Forces?
Let our senior partner know.
We are nearing the end of our evaluation of Lt. Connolly's case. Read through the fourth memo from our senior partner, Brandi Bickering.

Respond to the following questions on loose leaf paper. 4 points per question, 20 points total.

  1. With the information you have right now, what would you recommend to the senior partners? What are the deciding factors in your recommendation? What questions do you still need to think about? What 5th and 14th Amendment issues are you thinking about?
  2. Does the right to equal protection override concerns about the effectiveness of Special Forces units, or is this a case of reasonable discrimination?
  3. Should the law firm take the case?
  4. Choose two additional questions presented by Ms. Bickering in her memo. Answer them completely below #3.
If you have additional time, begin planning a presentation which fulfills Ms. Bickering's requirements. You will present your argument before a panel of our senior partners next Wednesday. We will work in class on Monday and Tuesday to prepare the argument, and discuss the ways in which you will be scored.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Part 1: Reality at West Point
Read the article "Betrayal of Trust." Take notes on the following:

  • Main Point
  • Supporting details
  • Relevance to our case

Part 2: Bickering's 3rd Memo
Read the text of senior partner Brandi Bickering's memo regarding precedent.

Then, use the following case summaries to answer the guiding questions she asks (loose leaf or typed, 20 points):

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Legal Research (Get used to it, 1st year associates!)

What piece of legislation made it requirement for
schools to offer athletic programs for young women?
First, this document contains information on the US federal court system. Know it -- this will help you in your project, and will be on your next test.

Part 1: Researching Similar Cases
Pick one person in your group to research each of the following topics:
  • integration of minority groups (blacks, women, GLBT) into the military
  • integration of women into other professions
  • equal access of women to high school/college/professional sports

You must:
  • Effectively cite your source (MLA format) -- you may use this in your final project
  • Summarize your source's connection to the case
  • Include at least one specific reference to a relevant law or precedence
Part 2: Bickering's 3rd Memo
Read the text of senior partner Brandi Bickering's memo regarding precedent.

Then, use the following case summaries to answer the guiding questions she asks (loose leaf or typed, 20 points):

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You're 1st Year Associates. Do some Research!

John Wayne as a Green Beret... was his
portrayal what Lt. Connolly could expect?

Tonight, use one of the databases available to our firm (Gale, NY Times, Brittanica) to research the following topics:

  • the Green Berets
  • their objectives within the U.S. Army
  • the kinds of tasks they are called upon to perform

This is your first major assignment related to this case. You must:

  • Effectively cite your source (MLA format)
  • Prepare ~ 1 page of research on the topic above

"Paid Compensation"

  • 20: Demonstrates mastery of topic
  • 15: Demonstrates adequate understanding of topic
  • 10 and below: Inadequate understanding of topic

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Essay Prompt

Imagine that you are a Supreme Court Justice. You've just heard arguments in the case about the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act. Now, you must write a decision in this case. Your decision must include:

  • A summary of the issue in this case
  • A statement saying whether you are ruling that the individual mandate to purchase insurance is Constitutional or Unconstitutional
  • At least three specific precedents for your decision

5 paragraphs, 50 points, following the rubric distributed in class. Due Tuesday, 4/3/12.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Practice Law Test


Take a look at these practice law test questions. I would like you to go through the test questions and identify 15 that you do not know the answer to. Attempt to find the answers. Complete this on loose leaf paper.

Note -- there are questions in this document about old mock trial cases -- do not answer these. Pick law-related questions.

Good luck! I'll see you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech

Justice Breyer, the only active member of the Supreme Court
interviewed in the video.
You can find the video from today's class at the website for the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics.

If you need a copy of the worksheet, you can find it here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Roberts Court and the First Amendment

The 2011-2012 Supreme Court justices.
Yesterday, we examined some potential legal scenarios where the First Amendment would come into play. Today, you will have the opportunity of taking a closer look at some of the First Amendment cases the court will consider during the 2011-2012 term.

First, what rights are protected by the First Amendment?

How does a case reach the Supreme Court?

How does the Court rule on cases?

Today's work is due in a printed, stapled MS Word document at the start of tomorrow's class period.

Part 1: Last Year's Docket
Now, let's take a look at a great graphic from the New York Times: Major Rulings of the 2010-2011 Term. Complete the following in an MS Word document (10 points):

  1. What patterns do you notice in the rulings for 2010-2011? Explain.
  2. What does it mean when a justice recuses himself?
  3. Which justice(s) seems to be the most conservative? Liberal? How can you tell?
  4. Which justice(s) do you agree with most frequently? Explain.
  5. Which cases examined by the Court appear to involve the First Amendment?
Part 2: This Year's First Amendment Cases (20 points)
When you're done, use the list of sources below to complete the following in your Word document.

Identify at least two court cases dealing with the First Amendment for the 2011-2012 term. Try to find cases that interest you. For each:
  1. Record the case caption.
  2. Record your source website.
  3. Relate the case to the First Amendment. Include specific clauses.
  4. Summarize the issue(s) at stake in the case.
  5. Justify your interest in the case. Be specific.
  6. If the case has already been decided, record the vote (5-4, 6-3, etc.). Record the majority opinion in the case. Explain whether or not you agree with the opinion, giving specific references to the case itself and the majority opinion.
  7. If the case has not been decided, make a prediction for the way in which the Court will rule based on prior decisions. Include a reference to the material that justifies your response.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

U.S. Federal Courts Structure

While we tend to focus on the Supreme Court, the federal judiciary is much more expansive than that, with federal courts spaced throughout the entire country.

You can see the structure of the Courts system at

Part of the Supreme Court's responsibility is to resolve disputes among the other lower federal courts and thereby set national precedent for judicial review of similar constitutional cases in the future. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is considered to be one of the most politically liberal courts in the system, providing some of the most controversial cases brought on appeal to the Supreme Court. For example, the Ninth Circuit has produced controversial rulings on issues such as the use of medical marijuana and the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. also has a fantastic map of all the country's courts!

Use the links to answer the following questions in the body of an e-mail to me (20 point):

  1. What is the basic three-tier structure of the federal judiciary?
  2. How many U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are there?
  3. Where is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?
  4. What federal legal entities exist outside the basic federal judicial branch?
  5. What federal appeals court does Illinois belong to? Use the website to locate this court's website.
  6. What types of information can you learn from the Court's website?
  7. Use the court's website to located all opinions filed by the Court in the past month. What types of cases does the Court tend to hear?
  8. Browse through the opinions. Locate at least one you find interesting. Record the case caption, summarize the background of the case, and finally, summarize the judge's opinion. State whether or not you agree with the judge's opinion.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Respondents' Opening: Stray Thoughts

Here are some notes from our in-class discussion of the Respondents' Opening today:

The petitioners must prove…
  • 1.      Nobody will be able to show that money is excessive
  • 2.      No witness will be able to prove that Estelle H-P was not in her right mind

The evidence will show:
  • 1.      That she WAS in her right mind
  • 2.      That the money is not excessive (old estate, etc.)
  • 3.      The law, in fact, DOES NOT ALLOW FOR THIS TO HAPPEN – people who die with money can do with it what they want (think – you’re rich – what do you want to happen with your money?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Petitioners' Opening: Necessary Additions

Things to prove in Petitioners' opening:

1.          The Trust is excessive
2.          Rendlow violated the Will
3.          Rendlow influenced Estelle (undue influence)
a.                       Moved into guest house after Estelle knew her for short time
4.          Estelle was not in her right mind when she wrote the Will. Not mentally competent to create any form of a Will.

"…In our lawsuit today, Addison and Alexi, the beloved children of Jackson and Estelle, will attempt to protect their family interests and make sure that their parents’ hard-earned money won’t be wasted by a master manipulator."

--heard from mother less after Rendlow came around
--how easily mother was influenced – “My mom was a good person, but she was very easily influenced.”
--Rendlow’s breach of will by fostering animals
--altered will recently (same since 1978), perhaps under influence of Rendlow
--long planned to share estate with children, but recently changed
--able to care for animals (has animal of her own, knows how to do it) “beloved cat (Addison), beloved dog (Alexi)…”
--because of Rendlow, relationship with children changed (pt. 13) immediately (less time, more animals, etc.)
--Addison is not doing it for the money, doing it so that this snake doesn’t take it

--McKay establishes background as an expert witness
--observed Rendlow’s conniving ways (11)
--$10 mil bequest is a sign of mental health problems (4)
--(6) Estelle easily persuaded by easy explanation, persuasive language
--(7) through persuasion, Rendlow ingrained himself into the life of Estelle (belief of petitioners)

Excessive Estate expenses – “you will hear testimony regarding how much it takes to care for an animal.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Openings and Closings

Today you will have the opportunity to put any final touches on your opening statements using last night's homework assignment. Make any changes you find are necessary, then save and upload it to the Wiki (as discussed yesterday. Make sure only the most up-to-date version is on the Wiki.

When you are finished, you will work with the same partner to craft a closing argument. Follow the guidelines from class, watch the example from To Kill a Mockingbird below, and check out the section on this rubric for "Openings and Closings."

The rubric is on a 5 point scale. I will multiply that score by 10 to give you a 50 point score for both opening and closing. It is the official rubric used by judges in the trial.

When you are done with your closing, upload it to the Wiki.

Here's an example closing from Hinsdale's closing

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Direct Examinations Project

Brian "Kato" Kaelin testifies at the trial of O.J. Simpson
(People v. Simpson). Kaelin was famously qualified as
a "hostile witness" by prosecutor Marcia Clark because of
his rambling, incoherent responses to questions.
ARRIVAL: Find the people with the same witness. SIT WITH THEM.

You will work with a small group to put together 35-40 direct examination questions and answers for your assigned witness.

This assignment is a 50 point project grade, and will be assessed using this rubric. You will be assessed as a group, but will also receive an individual grade based on my observation of your contributions to the group.

We will start by viewing a video from the University of South Carolina showing some examples of direct examinations done by their mock trial team.

While we watch the video together, comment on this post with the following information:

  1. How do the attorneys structure their questions?
  2. Which is the best witness? Why?
When we finish with the video, you will have the remainder of the period to work on your direct examination questions. 

Before you write your questions and answers, respond to the following at the top of your page:
  1. Why should we call this witness?
  2. What theory is your side (petitioner or respondent) trying to develop?
  3. What is your theme (remember -- the tag-line)? You won't include it in your questioning, but every question should work toward the development of this theme.
  4. What is already in evidence when your witness is called to the stand? What questions can he/she expect to face based on prior testimony?
Ultimately, you will want to have one document complete with questions and answers. Each question should be followed immediately by its answer. Use the following hints to ensure your success:
  • Ensure that you have no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Ask the questions in a logical order.
  • When appropriate, refresh your witness' recollection by referring back to prior testimony, the dates of different events, and other items already in evidence.
  • Write complete answers for your witness. We will use the answers you write in the actual trial.
  • Make sure that your answers are in character. It is very important that our witnesses act like the people they are portraying.
  • Include specific references to the content of the witness affidavits. You cannot have the witness say anything (with very few exceptions) that is not discussed in the affidavit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Draft Directs

Tonight, draft AT LEAST 20 direct examination questions for your assigned witness. Don't just choose the easy questions -- try to get to the heart of the issue. You must:

  • Include a clear attempt to develop a theory
  • Include references to a clear theme
  • Avoid leading questions
  • Ask GOOD questions -- not yes/no
  • Decide what is most important for this witness to say
These are due on your desk at the start of tomorrow's class period. I encourage you to TYPE your work and e-mail yourself a copy so that you can use it in the computer lab tomorrow. You must bring a hard copy with you to class either way.

The assignment is worth 20 points.

Our example direct from class today is below. If you are one of the people assigned to continue the line of questioning we started, you must ADD at least 20 questions. Remember -- our finished directs will have around 40 questions (give or take).

Direct Examination of Riley Rendlow
1. Riley, would you please state your full name for the court?
A. My name is Riley Rendlow.
2. How old are you Riley?
3. Did you go to college?
a. Oh yes, I graduated from the University of Illinois with a biology degree.
4. What do you do for a living?
I currently work as an animal caretaker for the estate of Estelle Heeney-Potter. I also am a part time volunteer at the Animal Café.
5. We’ve heard a little already today about the Animal Café, but can you tell the court exactly what it is?
6. Did you know Estelle Heeney-Potter?
7. How did you meet her?
a. Well, I first met Estelle at the Animal Café. She came in one day to start the adoption process for her two dogs, Bessie and Homer.
8. When you first met Estelle, were you aware that she was a wealthy woman?
9. Do you know whether Estelle was very active with the Animal Café?
a. Yes, sometime after I met her I learned that she was actually a co-founder of the shelter. She loved animals as much as anyone I’ve ever met.
10. How did Estelle come to appoint you to be the caretaker for her pets?
a. Well, we really hit it off.
b. She visited the Animal Café with the dogs a few times, and we started to chat a lot.
c. It turned out we shared a lot of the same interests – books, cooking, movies, walking and more.
d. And I think she may have been a little lonely since her two kids, Addison and Alexi pretty much ignored her.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Draft Closing Arguments Assignment

In order to really start tying together our theory of the trial, we must really start to break down our exact theory of the case. What do we have to show for each side to win? What theme will we repeat throughout the case?

This weekend, use your opening statement and binders to write a closing argument. You must time your argument:

  • Petitioners: 5 minutes
  • Respondents: 4 minutes

45 point homework grade, based on the scoring guidelines (Rules, pp. 37-39).

Hints on Writing the Closing Arguments

  • What is your theory?
  • What was the theme of your opening statement? (Ex: "Riley Rendlow is a sponge, looking to soak up all of the money around him." "Addison and Alexi are callous children, whose cold-hearted nature forced their mother to turn to furry animals for warmth.")
  • What evidence did you tell the judge you would present during your opening?
  • Did you, theoretically, prove this evidence's relevance during the trial?
  • What is the last image you want to leave in the judge's mind when you leave the courtroom?
  • Most importantly, Who said What?
Here's another theme, courtesy of Rukiat: "One bad apple spoils the bunch. Addison Heeney-Potter is the bad apple in this bunch. And this rotten apple is spoiling her mother's good intentions."

Sorry, Rukiat, I couldn't remember the exact wording. Post it in the comments section if you want everyone to see it.

If you need some inspiration, or just want an example, here's Atticus Finch's closing argument from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union Assignment

Watch the State of the Union address -- you can find the video at the White House website (link).

Record at least three of the president's main points. Explain why you chose these points.

Then, evaluate his speech. Is it successful? Explain your response.

This assignment should take a minimum of 2 paragraphs to complete. It is due tomorrow, and is worth 10 points.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Petition and our first Fact Quiz

Read the "PETITION" on pp. 4-6.

On loose leaf paper, record 5 salient points from the petition. This assignment is due on your desk at the start of tomorrow's class, and will be worth 10 points.

Be prepared to take a 15-question, 15 point True or False fact quiz. Topics:

  • Statement of Case
  • Stipulations
  • Petition
  • Statute

Be aware: It will be intentionally "tricky."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Hampshire Primary Homework

Tonight, go home and keep an eye on the New Hampshire Republican Primary. Answer the following questions on loose leaf paper:
1. What is the purpose of the primary?
2. Name the 5 candidates actively participating in the primary.
3. Polls close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time (7:00 here). Who appears to be winning?
4. Write down three things you learned from the coverage.