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Moot Court and Legal Research

PLS 421

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to basic legal research techniques and develop legal writing skills, while providing students with a thorough understanding of Supreme Court decision making processes. With this objective in mind, the course will take a nontraditional pedagogical approach which will involve close interaction between students and instructors during the semester. Moreover, the course structure will follow an unusual format with instructors providing a limited number of in-class lectures and most class periods devoted to library research. Instructors will be available in the library during those periods to assist students in legal research and writing. This course is designed to provide students with an intensive research and writing experience, therefore, the course closely resembles an independent study format rather than a traditional lecture format. It is imperative that students participate vigorously in the class and remain focused on completion of the scheduled assignments.

Research Assignment
The class will consist of a series of assignments that allow students to develop research and writing skills during the course of the semester and will culminate with a moot court simulation in which students will write an actual attorney’s brief and a Supreme Court opinion. The early assignments will be legal research exercises which introduce students to available legal resources and approaches to conducting research. This will be followed by an opinion writing assignment in which students will be given a hypothetical Supreme Court case to research and write an 8-10 page opinion. The opinion can reflect the students own personal views but must be supported by legal precedent. In the latter part of the semester, the course will turn to the moot court simulations in which students will participate in one case as an attorney and in two cases as justices of the Supreme Court. Students will be required to write a legal brief as an attorney and an opinion reflecting their justices views for one of the two cases they participate In as a justice. These two papers will be 12-15 pages in length. With all of the written assignments, students will be encouraged to provide instructors with rough drafts before turning in the final paper.

Legal briefs of attorneys will be due on the day of oral arguments. Opinions of justices will be due one week following the day of oral argument and the Court’s decision. Rough drafts should be turned in exactly one week before the final due data or they will not be accepted. Attorneys will work in groups and each group will decide how it wants to present oral arguments before the Court. All attorneys will receive the same participation grade based on the arguments presented by the team, so it is important to determine who has the best oratory skills and plan a strategy for presenting arguments. All attorneys will write their own legal brief and all justices will write an individual opinion. Assignments for the roles and the cases will be made by the instructors and are not subject to alteration.

Since this class utilizes a non-traditional format in which students are expected to conduct research in the library and participate fully in all assignments, the instructors will monitor participation closely and final grades will reflect the participation efforts of the student during the course of the semester. Participation includes attendance for all simulations. If you do not feel you have the discipline to participate in this type of format, then you should consider whether this is an appropriate class for you. There will be a substantial grade penalty for absences from the simulations either as participant or observer.

Study Abroad in Australia

People, Government, Justice System and Public Policies Program
Spring 2014

Australia and New Zealand including their people, political and justice systems and a wide range of public policies. During this six-week program, students can earn 8-12 MSU credits in CJ, PLS, ISS, IAH or SOC – a great value at a relatively low cost. And, it has perfect timing (January 4 – February 16).
You can avoid the Michigan winter and its summer in Australia and New Zealand.

➢ Includes over 20 field trips to natural areas, parliaments, supreme courts, prisons, police academies, museums and the outback as well as lectures by MSU faculty and Australian/New Zealand experts
➢ Located in Sydney, Canberra (nation’s capital) and Jervis Bay, one of the most pristine ecological parks in the world that is nested within the Booderee rainforest on the South Pacific. Also, in Wellington, NZ with opportunity to travel to the south island.
➢ University partners, the University of New South Wales and Australian National University, provide students with access to libraries, the internet, sports and recreational facilities
➢ Open to majors in all disciplines for students with at least a 2.5


Study Abroad in Australia click the link to download ppt file

Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Sciences

ISS 225

Various approaches to government, policy and justice cannot be understood without connection to Australia’s past and contemporary challenges to its historical cultural frames and world view. For example, one cannot understand Australian government and policy approaches without reference to the country’s origins as a prison colony, or without reference to the formative 19th century years that posed an inhospitable environment to life and development. These historical realities shape contemporary criminal and civil codes, property rights, basic notions of political freedoms and citizen rights, and orientations toward the role of the state in national development and problem solving. Another frame that shapes contemporary Australia is the interplay between the uprooting of Australia’s historical and cultural connections to England/Europe and the reality that Australia increasingly sees itself as an Asian country in trade, population demographics, culture and other strategic realities.
The contemporary shape of Australia’s culture begins with its founding and the “culture” of an English prison colony; it was reshaped in part by the frontier realities of Australia—a frontier far less environmentally hospitable initially to development than the American parallel. The wealth created by the discovery of gold, the rise of farming and extractive industries reshaped it again by making Australia a wealthy country by the early twentieth century and a view of it as the “lucky country.” It was reconfigured again by the inflow of southern and east European populations in the first half of the twentieth century, a pre and post World War II loosening of ties to England, an embracing of partnership with America, and adoption of significant aspects of the American culture. Concerns about Australia’s Asian location far from its English and European origins led, in the middle two-thirds of the 20th century, to the “white Australia policy.” The rejection of the “white Australia” policy and adoption in the early 1980s of multi-culturalism was official recognition of the reality that Australia was in Asia, that a majority of its future economic ties would be in Asia, but also that its English and European cultural roots and ties to the United States were well established and relatively permanent. The late-in-coming Australian awareness of Aboriginal culture and the reality of its impact on Australia still remains an evolving part of Australian multiculturalism. All of these stages in Australia’s history, development and resulting cultural reconfigurations fundamentally impact life, government policies and practices.
The course challenges students to look at Australia through an American lens, but also at the U.S. through an Australian cultural lens, and finally to resolve these lenses into a single (hopefully less nation-dependent) way of examining similarities and differences. Requiring students to view the U.S. from another country’s cultural lens provides shocking revelation for some students, but for that reason a powerful learning experience.

Comparative Legal Systems

PLS 322

We know a great deal about how courts and judges in American politics and public policy. We know far less, however, about what national courts in other countries. What kind of politics affects the creation of these courts or their reform? What role do “rights regimes” have on high courts and their relations with the rest of the government? How are judges selected for these courts and how can governments shape the policy preferences of these courts? How do high courts organize themselves and what kind of processes do they follow when they decide cases? How do courts in other countries differ from the American way of litigation and judging? To what extent is decision making affected by political ideology?

This course has several purposes. First, you will learn the “state of the art” research on three major court systems: United States, Australia, and Canada. These countries were selected because while they are similar, they also provide significant differences. The end result is that you develop knowledge about the Anglo-American common law system. Second, you will develop skills in collecting empirical information about courts from both developed and developing nations. Third, you will develop an appreciation for how the U.S. Supreme Court compares to other courts around the work both within common law systems and other types of legal systems. The course will use a lecture and an independent study format so students who are not comfortable with taking an initiative and doing more than just take notes in a lecture should consider that before continuing in the class. This class will require a significant amount of time and outside classroom work. After reading the requirements you should consider your course load and whether this a good fit for your schedule.

Judicial Process and Behavior

PLS 320

This course is intended to familiarize the student with the organization of American courts (both state and federal), their role in our society, the processes in practice through which judges act, and their impact on politics. The course will also have a comparative judicial focus with attention given to judicial institutions in other countries. We will compare the reality of how judges behave to society’s myths and expectations about how they should function and will discuss the limits of what can and should be expected of courts and judges. A central theme will be to analyze judges as political players who have a profound impact on the development and implementation of public policy.

Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties

PLS 321

Course Objectives

1) To enable you to develop your skills in legal research, analysis of cases and writing legal briefs.
2) Develop a basic understanding of the development of constitutional interpretation of civil liberties by the Supreme Court.
3) To increase your capacity to analyze the political, ethical, and legal aspects of selected unresolved civil liberties issues.