Civil Litigation Practice: From the Complaint to the Courthouse Steps
Professors Carlson, Kossak and Stott-Bumsted
J.D. Seminar 1216
| 4 credit hours
The vast majority of civil cases that are filed are not actually tried. Civil litigation is typically resolved before trial, either through a dispositive motion or a settlement. This course is intended to provide students with experience in all aspects of civil litigation prior to the trial itself, the work that represents what civil litigators typically do on a day-to-day basis. We will address practical questions—the mechanics of what to do, when to do it, and where to go for help. We also will consider strategic questions successful litigators must consider at each stage of the case as they position a case for all three potential outcomes (settlement, disposition through motions practice, or trial). Finally, we will discuss common ethical questions that arise in the course of civil litigation, particularly with respect to discovery.
Students will be divided into teams, given a fact pattern, and assigned the role of plaintiff or defense counsel. With their team, students will try their hands at the most important aspects of pretrial civil practice, from conducting the initial client interview, to drafting or responding to the complaint, to negotiating discovery disputes, to arguing a summary judgment motion, to preparing pre-trial submissions. Each week, students will have the opportunity to gain or use information that may support or undermine their case, and we will discuss questions about what can and should (from a practical, strategic, and ethical perspective) be done to obtain, preserve, share, and use that information. Students will be provided with a variety of written materials to use as resources in completing the weekly assignments as the fact pattern progresses, including rules, seminal cases, excerpts from useful treatises, and articles written by successful practitioners. For each task students are asked to perform, we also will provide them with a checklist of practical, strategic, and ethical issues to consider. Our goal will be to provide students with a set of materials that will serve as a useful guide when they become practitioners. Students will be evaluated throughout the year-long course and will receive a final letter grade at its conclusion. Students’ grades will be based upon their completion of weekly assignments, their contributions to class discussions, their participation during in-class exercises, and their drafting and arguing of motions at the conclusion of each semester.
Prerequisite: Civil Procedure (or Legal Process and Society). Recommended: Prior or concurrent enrollment in Evidence.
Students may not receive credit for this seminar and Intellectual Property Litigation: Pretrial Skills.
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