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.