Civil Rights Litigation (LAW-795RT-001)
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In Civil Rights Litigation for spring 2017, we will focus on three major areas of civil rights law. The course will be roughly equally divided among the three topics. At the conclusion of each of the first two units, students will write a graded in-class essay. At the end of the course, students will write a third graded essay as a final take-home examination.
We will begin with a unit on federal criminal and civil responses to police killings and other uses of force. The second unit will address housing discrimination by focusing on two cases from Miami that have been consolidated for consideration by the Supreme Court. They raise issues about the goals of the Fair Housing Act and the scope of its protections against the effects of predatory lending. Finally, the class will turn to voting rights, beginning with background on the Voting Rights Act before turning to cases pending in the Supreme Court challenging redistricting in Virginia and North Carolina.
In the police unit, we will examine pending and recently completed federal investigations of police officer conduct, relying on video, documentary evidence, and judicial opinions. The voting and fair housing units will start with background to build an understanding of the legal underpinnings of the Supreme Court litigation. We will examine the petitions for certiorari and what they tell us about the Court’s reasons for taking the cases. We will then read briefs filed in the cases, study the transcripts of oral arguments, and discuss commentary on the cases. I, of course, reserve the right to restructure the course if the Supreme Court takes a compelling civil rights issue.
The goals of the class are to gain insight into the process of high-stakes civil rights litigation, including the legal, strategic, and policy choices that drive it; deepen substantive knowledge of civil rights law; experience civil rights litigation from the litigator’s perspective, including enhancing understanding of the factors that are likely to influence individual Justices, judges, and jurors; and strengthen the ability to write and speak about these topics.
Students will be expected to participate actively in class. There will be several opportunities for structured role-playing and debate, in addition to regular classroom discussion. Classroom participation will constitute 15% of the final grade. Each of the in-class essays will contribute 25% toward the final grade and the final take-home essay will count as 35% of the final grade.
Textbooks and Other Materials
First Class Readings
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