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January 27, 2008

The Amicus Class

Reading what Professors Doug Berman (here) and Mark Osler (here) wrote on doing amici briefs reminded me of how I solved one of the "cons" to this experience mentioned by Doug. 

Writing amici briefs are truly a rewarding personal experience.  They allow you to remain connected with the practice and also to have a voice in pending litigation. But Doug was concerned about the time drain this experience would have, and he mentions one group that might be slighted -- students.

While teaching at Georgia State University College of Law, I solved this last problem by offering a course that focused on writing amici briefs.  The class had a limited number of students - 12, and was a hands-on experience class running similar to an in-house clinic.

There were three parts to the class. In the introductory part of the class we studied the role of amici briefs and the rules related to filing these briefs. The second part of the course required each student to write a mock amici brief on a case that they believed the Supreme Court might take that term.  It was necessary for them to examine the docket, study the issues in forthcoming decisions, and find one case likely to be selected.  The case needed to interest them and also provide an issue that would not be the central issue presented by the parties, or allowed them to present the issue in a new direction.  Clearly this was not an easy task. 

The final part of the course was its highlight. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)  allowed me to pick from one of their cases needing amici briefs.  Our class selected our Supreme Court case, and also selected an 11th Circuit case and we wrote the amici briefs - dividing the class into two groups to facilitate this process. 

This was an incredibly rewarding class for me, and the students raved about it. It allowed for collaborative work, allowed for teaching "skills and values,"  and focused on not only substance and procedure in criminal law, but also on the practice.  My hope was that one day this course could also be offered by someone with prosecution ties so that students desiring this upper level capstone experience could select from different perspectives.  And it is now my hope that one day I will repeat this experience in my new wonderful home at Stetson University College of Law.

It is wonderful to see the Ohio State Criminal Law Journal providing an outlet for the amici voice in the new Amici: Views From the Field.  And when you see the list of participants, it is most impressive (e.g. Hon. Nancy Gertner). I take my Stetson hat off to Professor Doug Berman on this one.

ellen s. podgor

January 27, 2008 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink


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