Results tagged “Evidence”

November 5, 2013

Lapp_SJ.jpgBy Associate Professor Kevin Lapp

This post originally appeared on EvidenceProf Blog.

Multiple choice testing is a popular assessment format in Evidence courses, more popular in my experience in Evidence than in other courses. Some professors use it exclusively, while others mix multiple-choice testing with essay questions on their exams. There's good reason for using multiple choice testing in Evidence courses. For one, the MBE portion of the bar exam contains multiple choice Evidence questions, so doing so as part of a final exam helps prepare students for the bar exam format. In addition, multiple choice testing has been around, and is widely accepted as a credible format to assess student knowledge. Evidence is also a heavily rule-based class that lends itself to an assessment format that requires students to identify a single correct answer. Finally, multiple choice questions allow professors to assess more topics than can be squeezed into an essay question, reducing the chances that a student performs well on an exam because he happened to know the issues covered by the essay questions.

But there can be a large gap between good multiple choice questions and bad multiple choice questions. This post is about how those of us who do use multiple choice questions can know if we are doing it in a way that makes for good assessment. The credibility of our multiple choice questions as sound assessment tools is particularly important given the high stakes testing that goes on in so many law school classrooms. When the great bulk, if not the entire portion, of a student's grade hinges on a single 3 or 4 hour exam, it is our duty to take advantage of the available tools to ensure that our exams function as credible assessment tools.

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October 31, 2013

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By Associate Professor Kevin Lapp

I've previously stated my enthusiasm for the problem-based approach to teaching evidence. Embracing the use of problems necessarily means that my students are not reading a lot of cases. Indeed, the textbook that I use has only a few case excerpts that are longer than a paragraph, and does not contain a single case that is reproduced in its entirety. Despite my preference for using problems, I recognize that there are drawbacks to not assigning cases for reading. In this post, therefore, I want to push back against myself a bit and make the case for using judicial opinions in Evidence class.

First, though, a few brief thoughts on what I like about problems. One distinct advantage is that problems are shorter than judicial opinions. Instead of procedural history, or factual recitations, or statements of the governing law, problems get right to work, providing students with all the information that I want them to have in order to focus their attention on the things I want them to focus on (and nothing more). It's much cleaner to have a crafted problem that is one paragraph long than it is to have a 2 page case that includes facts that aren't relevant or important to the rule that the case discusses. Another advantage is that I craft problems that allow me to change the facts very easily to illustrate the critical elements and nuances of a particular rule's application. With cases, the fact set-up is often messier, and it can be harder to offer simple factual adjustments that might change the result or bring into play a particular foundational element of hearsay exception. Finally, presenting the students with problems, instead of cases, allows me to treat the material as a puzzle to be solved (as compared to judicial opinions, which are puzzles already solved).

But there are downsides to teaching by problems. Perhaps the biggest one I've identified thus far is that my students do not get the benefit of reading a judge's organized analysis of a particular legal issue. For all their warts (which themselves can be teaching tools), judicial opinions provide models for legal analysis. They typically start with the facts, outline the relevant law (including its rationale), and then apply the specific words of the law and the underlying rationales to the facts. It's often exactly what I want my students to learn how to do. And while our class discussions about problems involve the students identifying the relevant rule and its elements, and then making arguments about the proper application of the law to the facts, the result is rarely so clean. A student may jump right to the conclusion without explaining how she got there, a student may begin with a justification (I think it should be kept out because it's not reliable) without deciding whether it was even admissible, or a student may fumble with the specifics of the applicable rule. There are, of course, teaching techniques to deal with these situations, if not reduce their occurrence. But the legal analysis we conduct in class for a problem is rarely as organized as a judicial opinion. 

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September 9, 2013

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By Associate Professor Kevin Lapp

This is one of a series of guest posts on teaching Evidence at EvidenceProf Blog.

As I said before, Evidence strikes me as an ideal second-year course to incorporate skills exercises into the curriculum, so that students don't just learn the rules, but learn how practicing lawyers prepare for and resolve Evidence law issues. Aided by the problem-based approach of many Evidence textbooks, it's quite easy in the classroom to provide students with the facts of a case and some proposed testimony and to then have one or more students argue for the admissibility of the testimony while others argue for exclusion. This gets them to do the important work of applying the rule they've just learned, has the benefit of them doing so while in role as a lawyer with a particular goal, and ensures that they hear and consider both sides of the issue. 

Yet, while many evidentiary issues arise in the middle of witness testimony, and require the quick-thinking objections and oral argument skills that can be developed via classroom discussion or exercises, a lot of evidentiary issues are resolved pretrial via motions in limine. And it is quite a challenge to include legal writing exercises in the Evidence course curriculum for a host of reasons. But I think it is a challenge that deserves to be confronted and overcome. Simply put, no student should leave an Evidence course without having drafted a short motion in limine.

There are several reasons for including a motion in limine assignment (beyond the fact that they are a important component of actual practice).

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September 3, 2013

Lapp_SJ.jpg By Associate Professor Kevin Lapp This is one of a series of guest posts on teaching Evidence at EvidenceProf Blog.

A comment by Frederick Moss to a prior post raised the important question of coverage in an Evidence course. Even for those with the luxury of 4 credit hours each week, there simply isn't enough class time to cover the material and accomplish all that might be accomplished in a law school course.  I'm happy to entertain thoughts on what content gets bumped when the clock is running out - burdens of proof; trial mechanics; the best evidence rule; authentication; scientific evidence. Personally, I haven't yet found room for a one-hour lesson on the limits of eyewitness testimony, which I would love to add to my course.

But coverage is not just a content issue. As the push for more practical training continues (a push I endorse), there is no reason for doctrinal courses to ignore practice skills. Indeed, in these leaner times, doctrinal courses may be the best place to insert practical training into the curriculum. And in my mind, the Evidence course is a perfect place for law school to include lawyering skills alongside the learning of fundamental doctrine. I'm trying to incorporate some skills mini-exercises throughout my course (such as in-role oral arguments in class, and short writing assignments akin to motions in limine), but making time for those requires bumping topics that I already decided couldn't get bumped. 

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March 7, 2011

This is the final installment in Loyola's "11 on '11" series, in which Loyola Law School professors weighed in on what they expect to be the biggest legal issues in their fields in 2011.

Dean Victor Gold By Dean Victor J. Gold

Evidentiary privileges protecting communications with your lawyer, spouse, doctor, clergy, psychotherapist, and others apply only if you intended those communications to be confidential. But be wary of sending any of these folks an email from your work computer or a smartphone supplied by your employer. A recent decision by the California Court of Appeals suggests that communications to and from such devices are not privileged.

In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, ---Cal.Rptr.3d---, 2011 WL 117230 (Cal.App.3d, 2011), an employee brought a wrongful termination action against her employer. During her deposition, plaintiff was questioned by the company about emails she sent to her lawyer using the company's computers. She objected, claiming that the emails were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The trial court overruled her objection, and the Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the employee did not intend the emails to be confidential since (1) the computer on which they were sent belonged to the company, (2) the company advised its employees that emails might be monitored, and (3) the employee knew of this policy and agreed to it. The Court of Appeals rejected as immaterial the employee's understanding that the company did not, in fact, monitor employee emails, reasoning:

Just as it is unreasonable to say a person has a legitimate expectation that he or she can exceed with absolute impunity a posted speed limit on a lonely public roadway simply because the roadway is seldom patrolled, it was unreasonable for [the employee] to believe that her personal e-mail sent by company computer was private simply because, to her knowledge, the company had never enforced its computer monitoring policy.

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