Category Archives: Teaching

Practicum Recap #2: Doctrinal Learning

As I noted in previous posts, I co-taught a new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum this past semester. I’m now writing a series of reflections on teaching the class. In this post I’ll offer some general thoughts about how to prepare to teach the doctrinal component of a practicum-style class involving both doctrinal and skills-based learning, and a Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in particular.

The doctrinal portion of the Constitutional Litigation Practicum was integral to the class. We wanted students to have a strong foundation not only for the specific concepts they would be applying in the skills simulations throughout the class, but also to understand the overarching structure of litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We also wanted students to go into the skills simulations with most of this knowledge, rather than fumbling through depositions or motions without a solid grounding in the area in which they practice. Both Qusair and I have seen far too many lawyers whose understanding of the law is reasonably good as it relates to their specific case, yet who are thrown entirely off balance by a question linking the specific understanding of the case to the broader doctrinal architecture. Representing a client well requires both narrow and broad understandings. Continue reading

Practicum Recap #1: Preparing to Teach

As I noted in previous posts, I co-taught a new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum this past semester. I’m now writing a series of reflections on teaching the class. In this post I’ll offer some brief thoughts about how to prepare to teach a practicum-style class in general, and a Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in particular.

Practicum classes occupy a unique space: they are neither traditional doctrinal classes nor live-client clinics. This provides an opportunity to create an environment in which students gain expertise in a particular doctrinal area and immediately have opportunities to apply that knowledge in a structured setting, including highly realistic simulations. (I’ll talk more about the several simulations we employed in future posts.) Continue reading

Constitutional Litigation Practicum: A Recap

At the beginning of the past semester, I announced that I was co-teaching an innovative new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum with well-known Denver civil rights attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai. The class was great! I also announced that Qusair and I would be blogging about the class. That was not nearly as great, simply because we were both very busy last the semester and my blogging (both about the Practicum and other topics) slowed down.

Now that the class is over, I wanted to spend a few blog posts reflecting on the Practicum, what worked well, things we might do differently, and hopefully giving anyone who is thinking about designing a similar class some ideas about how to create the class. An overview of the class — with a link to the syllabus, which evolved a few times throughout the semester — is available here. In subsequent posts I’ll be covering the following topics: (1) organizing the class; (2) doctrinal learning; (3) taking and defending depositions; (4) writing and revising summary judgment motions; (5) oral arguments; (6) constructing a useful final exam.

Constitutional Litigation 2

The inaugural Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in front of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on the last day of class.

New Semester, New Classes

The first day of the new semester was on Monday. I’m teaching three classes this semester. The first is Criminal Procedure — the investigative course, focusing on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. As I tell students on the first day, I fail to see why this class is not called Constitutional Law III. It’s a constitutional law class. Calling in “criminal procedure” implies that those amendments apply only to criminals and people involved in some sort of criminal proceeding, which is obviously false. It sends precisely the wrong message about those amendments. Protection from unreasonable searches and seizures is for everyone, innocent or guilty. (I may write about the naming of the course later, and I may use the title “Conlaw III.”)

I’m also teaching Constitutional Law II. At the University of Denver this includes the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and I also spend a little time on the Second Amendment (less than I otherwise would because Dave Kopel teaches a detailed Second Amendment seminar here). We’re talking about incitement today.

Finally, I’m teaching a brand new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum. I’m co-teaching the class with Denver civil rights practitioner Qusair Mohamedbhai of Rathod Mohamedbhai. I’ve written a little about the class before, and Qusair and I intend to write about the class throughout the semester. The class uses a unique format and we’re excited about it. The class serves as a “capstone” experience available to students who are involved with the Constitutional Rights and Remedies program at the University of Denver.

The first session of the Practicum is today, and it will be a crash course in sovereign immunity, the ex parte Young fiction, and the origins and uses of 42 U.S.C. 1983. Here’s the tentative syllabus for anyone who may be interested.

Adjunct Walkout Day: February 25, 2015

Adjunct Walkout Day is on February 25, 2015. Sarah Kendzior offers a powerful explanation why everyone should care about the plight of adjuncts: “The plight of the adjunct shows one can have all the education in the world and still have no place in it.” Those of us who are tenured and tenure-track faculty should care in an even more immediate way, as the fate of the adjunct is intimately tied with the fate and shape of our own institutions. The issues for adjuncts teaching at law schools are somewhat different than for adjuncts in many fields, in part because the pool of adjuncts is different. Many, although not all, adjuncts at law schools are practicing attorneys, who teach a class because they enjoy it, not as an attempt to make a full-time living. This is a situation different from that of adjuncts in, for example, the humanities, who in many instances don’t have a full-time job apart from adjuncting and in some instances are trying to cobble together a living by teaching several classes as adjuncts. Continue reading

Constitutional Litigation Practicum

I’m excited to announce that in Spring 2015 — in addition to my regular Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law II classes — I’ll also be co-teaching a new course tentatively titled “Constitutional Litigation Practicum.” The course will combine doctrinal and skills-based learning about litigating under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

My co-teacher will be star litigator Qusair Mohamedbhai, one of the founders of Denver law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai. Qusair recently secured the largest settlement in Denver history against the Denver Police Department for a case involving jailhouse brutality. The case also catalyzed a number of systemic changes to the Denver Police Department, including a request by a federal judge for federal oversight and changes in departmental leadership. Continue reading