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Dr Lewis S. Ringel – Political Science 417

Dr. Lewis S. Ringel

                                                   Political Science 417 – Moot Court

                                          CSULB – Spring 2009 – Thursdays 2:00-4:45

                        Office: SPA 336 – Ph. 562 985-4708  — E-mail:

Office Hours: Monday/Wednesday/Thursday 1:00-1:45 and Monday/Wednesday 3:30-4:00

                                                    Three Bits of Unsolicited Advice:

(1)          Have fun in this class and with the competition; use it as a tool for personal growth.

(2)          “The compulsion to know everything is the road to insanity” – EE Schattschneider

(3)          “What Looks Large from a distance, up close ain’t never that big.”  Bob Dylan

                                                               Course Description:

POSC 417 will be a highly participatory class.  Students will come to class and will work with a teammate to represent a fictional “client” who is a party to a legal conflict.  This means that there will be a significant amount of group work in this class.  There will be interactive classroom exercises, written assignments, quizzes, oral presentation of cases, and mock moot court simulations.  Students will learn about legal research and logic, appellate strategies, courtroom behavior and etiquette, and, perhaps, more importantly, themselves.  Students will refine and improve their critical thinking skills as well as their analytical skills.  Because the Socratic method will be employed, students will be required to arise upon demand and recite and discuss key aspects of cases (e.g., facts, precedent, legal doctrine established or used) while under the duress of probing (and brilliant) questions posed by the faculty and faculty assistants or guest judges.  You will come to relish these experiences and, if all goes as planned, you will even welcome them (I type this with a straight face).


                                                              What is Moot Court?

Moot court involves the simulation of appellate argument.  Two-person legal teams compete in front of a panel of judges.  Students are provided a hypothetical legal case known as “the competition case.”  This will be a closed case meaning that students are limited to discussing and making arguments based on the cases and/or laws cited in “the record” itself.  Students are expected to develop and present legal and policy arguments in favor of their clients.  To do so, students must research the cases and laws cited in “the competition case.”  Moot court judges ask students questions and grade the students on the basis of their knowledge of the case, their response to questioning, their forensic skills, and their demeanor.  Oral argument lasts 40 minutes (each side gets 20 minutes) and each student is required to speak for a minimum of 7 minutes.


Moot court can be a lot of work.  It will require meeting out of class with your teammate.  Moot court has the potential to be the best academic experience of your collegiate career.  Note that like most assignments and classes, the value of moot court is likely to be positively related to the effort that you put in.  If you do not wish to work with a teammate or to participate in an academic exercise such as moot court I would strongly advise you to consider dropping the class.

                                                             Nature of the Seminar:


This will not be a lecture class. While some lecture is inevitable, this will primarily be a seminar class.  Typically, I will guide class discussion and, when necessary, point you toward issues that I believe should be discussed.  Our class assistants will also participate in discussions.

                                   A Word on the Socratic Method and on the Professor


I use the Socratic method.  This involves asking you a lot of questions, aggressively pressing you for answers, and acting as devil’s advocate.  Few students enjoy this experience.  I am well aware of the alienating affects of the method.  Why do I do it?  One, it is typically an effective manner for getting you to think about the law in a specific way.  Two, it is typically a good simulation for what moot court will be like.  Three, for those who plan to attend law school, it is a good idea to experience the method sooner than later.  I urge you not to take my use of the Socratic method personally.  Even if you come to view me as a demanding, pedantic SOB please bear in mind that come tournament time when I am more your coach than professor I will be YOUR demanding, pedantic SOB!!!


Tournament Competition:


Students in POSC 417 may have the opportunity to participate in as many as two informal tournaments or scrimmages with local schools.  These will likely be in May.  I will pass along information to you about dates and times and places as soon as I have it.  Please try and have a flexible schedule for April and May if possible to accommodate these scrimmages and any practices.


                                                             Office Hours & Email:


I aim to be the most accessible professor (with a toddler and an infant at home and two academic programs to administer to) in the Western Hemisphere.  I try to respond to email messages when they come in.  I will NOT discuss grades over email.  So I can best serve students, please limit office hours to discussing matters related to class or your performance in class, issues related to current political or legal events, or conversations that you might have about your future (e.g., about law school or internships).

Dropping the Class

If you plan to drop please do so before legal teams are announced.  Students who drop the class after the 12th week must produce a compelling reason such as death in the family, your own serious illness, or pregnancy.  Students may be asked to provide documented proof of their situation.


Grading and Assignments: 


An A is a 90-100%, a B is a 80-89%, a C is a 70-79%, a D is a 60-69, an F is a 0-59.  There may be some limited extra credit such as attending a meeting at the Superior Court in downtown Long Beach and/or recruiting volunteers for regional tournament.  There will be more about this in time.Written work will be graded along a check plus (100%), check (75%, or check minus scale (50%).

Exercise                                                                                                                                                    Percent              

Brief of the Record                                                                              5%

Opening Statement for Petitioner                                                                                                                 2.5%

Opening Statement for Respondent                                                                                                             2.5%

Closing Statement for Petitioner                                                                                                                   2.5%

Closing Statement for Respondent                                                                                                               2.5%

15 Case Briefs                                                                                                                                                                                       30%

Free Speech Arguments for Petitioner                                                                                  5%

Due Process Amendment Arguments for Petitioner                          5%

Free Speech Arguments for Respondent                                                                              5%

Due Process Amendment Arguments for Respondent                      5%

Hypothetical Questions for Petitioner                                                                                                          2.5%

Hypothetical Questions for Respondent                                                                                                      2.5%

Attendance                                                                                                                                                                                            10%

Class Participation                                                                                                                                                       15%

Quizzes                                                                                                                                                                                                  5%


Class Assignments, Class Participation, Attendance, Tardiness, Food in Class,


Read assignments for the class date that they are listed as being assigned and come to class prepared to discuss the readings and to be quizzed on them.  Missing class, not doing your assignments, and failing to read will likely prove lethal to your grade.  Take notes in class and when you read.  Please treat your fellow students with respect.  Shut off all cellular phones before coming to class and please do not talk in class on a cellular phone.  Class participation means actively engaging me and others in discussion of course materials during class meetings.  It means volunteering answers/opinions and asking questions and responding when called upon.  The quality and quantity of your comments matters.  Attending class is NOT participating.  Please do not eat “smelly” food in class.


                                                                     Extra Credit:


There will be a chance to earn significant extra credit by submitting written briefs for each side.  These are not the case briefs but are papers that include your arguments.  Each case brief will be graded from 1-10.  You may submit ONE or TWO.  I will offer extra credit to those who recruit volunteers for our regional: 1 point per volunteer/up to 5 extra points for your participation grade.


Seminar Attendance and Lateness:


Missing class will affect not only you but your teammate and the larger class in general.  Thus, attendance will be mandatory.  Attending, but leaving significantly early (e.g., at the halfway point) OR arriving excessively late (e.g., at the halfway point) may cause a student to receive partial attendance credit for each time that one leaves early.  Our meetings will be almost THREE hours in length with at least one break so please plan accordingly and, if possible, do not leave in the midst of a session. As much as I HATE to make exceptions to uniform rules as such invariably involves subjectivity, there will, how be a limited set of acceptable excuses for missing class without being penalized.  These will include demonstrated medical emergencies (I do NOT mean the flu) religious holidays, university business, and a limited set of personal/family emergencies (e.g., family member dies or is in the hospital).  Such occasions may be counted as your excused absence.  The following are NOT acceptable excuses for missing more than ONE session:  your car/bike was stolen, picking someone up at the airport, an exam in another class, oversleeping, car troubles, waking up in Las Vegas with a wedding ring, you’re to appear on MTV, the cocktail flu, work, caffeine issues, a date with your deity, good surf, or a “bad” horoscope.  The following will constitute our attendance grading scale:


                                                                                                    Missed Classes:                                        Attendance Grade  

0-1                                                                 100%

2                                                                    90%

3                                                                    80%

4                                                                    70%

5                                                                    60%

6-7                                                                 50%

8                                                                    40%

9                                                                    30%

10                                                                  20%

11                                                                  10%

12-13                                                             0%




In order to ensure that you keep up with the readings and to guide your attention to key aspects of the cases and laws that we will read I will employ pop quizzes. They will typically involve multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank questions; but I might ask you to answer short answer questions.  I will drop your lowest quiz.  If you miss a quiz it is a ZERO.  Missed quizzes can be dropped, depending upon the circumstances of your absence, but there will be NO makeup quizzes.


                                                                 Questions Projects


There is a short project that will require you to produce TWENTY possible questions per issue per side (FORTY total questions).  These will be graded along the same lines as the written briefs.  The same rules on lateness apply.  See Beach Board for more information.  Bring hard copies of both to class and please submit electronic copies to me vie email.

Written Case Briefs:


Every student must submit written case briefs for the cases noted.  Case briefs must follow the format found in Beach Board.  Students should bring two copies of their case briefs to class; one CLEAN HARD COPY to submit for a grade and one to make any notes or corrections that you wish to make for your own purposes.  You are responsible for correcting any errors that you make in your briefs or filling in any omissions.  I will accept late case briefs if submitted within a week of the due date at a penalty of 50%.  Students who known they will miss class can try to email their case briefs to me (with my approval) or give them to me in my office at a time outside of class.


Case briefs will be graded on a scale of check-plus (100%), check (75%), or check-minus (50%).  I will average your scores and multiply them for your brief grade.  A check-plus has few, if any legal errors, and is well-written and free of spelling or grammatical mistakes.  A check has more than a few legal errors and/or more than a few spelling or grammatical mistakes.  A check-minus is loaded with legal errors and/or spelling or grammatical mistakes or it may include one fatal legal error such the wrong doctrine or wrong holding.  Case briefs should be “clean.”  That is without hand-written notes or additions/corrections.


If you quote the case use quotation marks.  Do not submit the actual language of the opinion as your analysis of the case.  This is plagiarism and does not assist you in developing your analytical or writing skills.  Briefs should be about 5 pages in length per case.  They must be typed, single-spaced with standard/justified margins, spell-checked, in English, and, if more than one page, stapled.  Put your name on your brief.


You must submit your case briefs electronically to turnitin.  You will do so through Beach Board.  If you have questions about Turnitin contact the Technology Help Desk at x 54959,, or on-line at   If you contact me, I will likely refer you to them.  After you have submitted your legal briefs electronically be certain to print a HARD copy and turn it in to me on or before the date it is due.  I will grade and return this HARD copy.  I will NOT print and/or grade your electronic submissions for you.  Turnitin will provide me a report on the originality of your work.  Take care to submit the identical essay to turnitin that you submit to be graded.  Students who attempt to skirt the system by turning in original gibberish electronically will be turned over to Judicial Affairs.  Legal Briefs that are not submitted to turnitin will be zeros.



Consult the statement on Beach Board regarding plagiarism.  If you have questions let me know.


Use of the Hauth Center:


I hope to be able to utilize the Hauth Center for one or two class sessions.  I encourage students to go to the Center on their own or with fellow classmates to practice and get professional feedback.  If possible I will find away to award/require for credit such visits,


Dress to Succeed in Moot Court Competition:


As a general rule, I do not consider it my business what students wear to class.  Moot court, however, is different.  Moot court involves appellate simulation.  Lawyers dress appropriately for court so as to show the court the respect it deserves.  In addition, some moot court judges will subtract points for students who are dressed inappropriately.  Note that on certain days I will expect that you dress for class as if you are attending court.  These days are noted on the syllabus.


Dressing appropriately means dressing conservatively.  Do not dress in a manner that would be distracting to the judges.  Your goal is to be dressed in such a manner that transmits the image that you are a professional and that the judges should focus on your words and not your appearance.


Men must wear a suit and tie or a sports coat and sports pants and a tie.  Jackets should be winter weight (no linen or poplin) and should be dark; blue, black, or grey.  If you wear sports pants please ensure that they complement your jacket.  They may have a pattern; but solid is best.  Wear a belt or suspenders.  Do not take your jackets off during competition.  Ties must not be loud.  They should be solid muted colors; stripes or a slight pattern is fine.  Avoid loud ties or ties with logos.  Take care that your tie knot does not cause your tie to be too long or too short.  If your jacket is buttoned your tie should not stick out below your jacket.  If you button your jacket do not button the bottom button.  Shirts should be solid (white, creme, or blue) or they might have a pattern such as stripes or boxes.  Do NOT wear dark color shirts and do not wear dark ties with a dark shirt.  Do not wear a stripped tie with a stripped shirt.  Wear dress shoes.  Shoes can be loafers or dress shoes; black or brown is best.  Socks should be dark; they can have a pattern such as argyle.


Women should wear suits (skirts or pants) with dress blouses.  Blouses should be conservative. Avoid blouses that are too sheer or revealing in any manner.  Button blouses to or just below the top.  Avoid very short skirts.  In general, you do not want anything shorter than an inch or two above the knee.  Suits should be either solid colors or very conservative prints (e.g., herringbone or tweed).  If you wear a skirt, be certain to wear stockings.  If you want to add a little color to your outfit consider a scarf.  Shoes should be tasteful and not distracting (e.g., no heels more than two to there inches).  Do not wear high heels if you are unaccustomed to doing so.  No open toed shoes.

No one, male or female, is to wear jewelry that would be distracting.  For example, no large or dangling earrings, large bracelets, or heavy thick chains.  If you have a tendency to play with your jewelry;  I would suggest removing it for the competition (I did for job interviews).  Typically, students with body piercings should remove before competing (e.g., nose or eye-brow).  No student, male or female, should wear excessive or excessively dark makeup.  This is especially true of eye-liner or mascara.  No one should have bright or glittery nail polish.  Nails should be clear or rose or coral tone.  No black nail polish.


No one should have wear head-ware unless for religious reasons.


No one should be compelled to spend a lot of money on your attire.  I will not, however, allow students to compete who fail to dress appropriately for competition.  You will lose points on score sheets.  No gum chewing during rounds.

Practice Sessions:


I will attempt to arrange several out of class practice sessions.  Your participation is encouraged – but of course not required.  At least one may pit you against mooters from another college or university.  In addition, I have secured SPA 110 for our use on most Fridays during the term.  See Beach Board for an updated schedule of when the room is available for our use.


Required Text:


Wezier, et al., 2004.  How to Please the Court: A Moot Court Handbook


Barron and Dienes, Constitutional Law: In a Nutshell


Course Packet # 1006 from at Krishna Copy Pro (562) 431 9974



Reading Schedule for POSC-417


Materials used in this class can be found either in the assigned text, on Beach-Board, or in the course packet.

Date                                                                                            Subject                                                       Assignment

1/29                                                                                             Brief of Record (Due)                            Sommerville v. DeNolf (2008)

Quiz on the Record                                   Study the Record

Judicial Balancing                                     “Judicial Balancing Tests” [on Beach Board]


2/5                                                                                               Oral Argument                                          Key phrases to say and not to say

Oral Argument                                                                  “Notes for Oral Argument” [on Beach Board]

Oral Argument                                          Board of Student Advisers, “Oral Argument”  Pages 57-75.  [In Packet]

Dicta and Precedent                                                         Murphy et. al., “Precedents and Legal Reasoning” Pages 438-449 [In Packet]

Discuss and Brief                                      Pickering v. Board of Education

2/12                                                                                             How to Construct Arguments              How to Please the Court.  Pages 45-58 and pages 65-67

Cases (Briefs Due)                                    Connick v. Myers (1983)  (brief due)

                                                                                                  Waters v. Churchill (1994) (brief due)

                                                                                                  Garcetti v. Ceballos (200 ) (brief due)

2/19                                 Due Process Reading                                Barron and Dienes, Pages 253-273

Cases (Briefs Due)                                    Armstrong v. Manzo (1965) (brief due)

                                                                                                  Goldberg v. Kelly (1970) (brief due)

                                                                                                  Board . . . v. Roth (1972) (brief due)

                                                        Goss v. Lopez (1975) (brief due)



2/26                                                                                             Cases (Briefs Due)                                    Mathews v. Eldridge (1976) (brief d

Freedom of ExpressionBarron and Dienes, Pages 373-404

Reading on Speech Forums                    Barron and Dienes, Pages 423-455

Cases (Briefs Due)                                                            Tinker v. Des Moines . . . (1969) (brief due)

Widmar v. Vincent (1981) (brief due)
Perry Ed. Assoc . . .(1983)
(brief due)

3/5                       Cases (Briefs Due)                                    Alabama Student Party. . . (brief due)
                            Rosenberger v. Rector (1995) (brief due)
Arkansas Ed . . . v. Forbes (1998)
(brief due)
Justice for All v. Faulkner (2005)
(brief due)

3/12                                                                                             Arguments for Question 1 (Due)          Come to class with arguments to discuss

[See assignment on Beach Board]

3/19                                                                                             Arguments for Question 2 (Due)          Come to class with arguments to discuss

[See assignment on Beach Board]


3/26                                                                                             Opening/Closing Statements (Due)      How to Please the Court.  Pages 61-62

Mock Moot Court                                     Practice Oral Argument



4/2                                                                                               No Class                                                     Spring Break


4/9                                                                                               Mock Moot Court                                     Practice Oral Argument



4/16                                                                                             Mock Moot Court                                     Practice Oral Argument



4/23                                                                                                         Question Day                                              Come to class with question assignment.  Be prepared with answers to your own questions

4/30                                                                                             Mock Moot Court                                     Practice Oral Argument



5/7                                                                                               Mock Moot Court                                     Practice Oral Argument




5/14                                                                                             TBA