Categories: Criminal Law
Instructor(s) Klingele, Cecelia
Problems in defining what conduct should be subject to criminal penalties; the limitations of criminal law as a means for prevention and control of undesirable conduct.
Unlike undergraduate education, where professors and teaching assistants often provide students with material, digest it with students in class, and ask for it to be repeated back on an exam, legal education requires a great deal more initiative on the part of students. In most cases, there are not “answers” to memorize, and often you will be left struggling to decide how the law does—and should—apply to a given situation. Developing professional judgment in the face of ambiguity in the law is a core competency required for the practice of law. Your ability to analyze critically, reason clearly, think creatively, and make thoughtful, independent judgments is what will make you a good law student—and ultimately, a good lawyer. While I (and the rest of the faculty) am here to support and guide you in the process of developing those skills, the work of learning is primarily your own. There will not be a great deal of hand-holding here: Do not expect all class readings to be discussed in lecture, and understand that the skills you are honing go beyond those that will (and can) be assessed on the final examination. Own your learning and professional development, and think of the educational enterprise broadly. Doing so will position you to succeed in the legal profession.
This course is designed to help you understand how to read and interpret statutes in the context of one primary area: the law governing criminal conduct. Recognizing that most people learn best when they apply ideas to real life situations, you will often be asked to view the course materials from the perspective of a practicing lawyer. The assignments are intended to help you develop a range of fundamental lawyering skills—such as oral and written communication, collaboration, analysis, and synthesis—that require you to do more than simply make arguments or memorize rules and cases.
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
• Describe the basic legal standards that govern decision-making by prosecutors, judges, and juries in criminal cases.
• Identify the basic elements of a criminal statute.
• Apply statutes to new fact situations.
• Understand the primary Constitutional limits on the legislature’s ability to draft criminal statutes.
• Understand the ways in which criminal law has changed over time in response to changing public norms and institutional structures.
• Understand the operation of included offense statutes, and their effect on charging decisions and jury instructions.