Today's First Amendment

Professor Ruthann Robson

A First Amendment course is an ideal class to practice "free speech" and experience how the law is rewritten daily.

In addition to a substantial writing requirement (either an independent paper or a take-home exam), students research and write a "case update," often presenting it orally to their colleagues. For the update, each student selects one class and chooses a case from the readings for that class. The student then uses that case as precedent to find a recent case (decided within the last 18 months) not cited in the Casebook or Supplement. The student writes a 3-7 page paper discussing the precedential case and the recent case, including how the recent case uses the precedential case as doctrine and as theoretical perspective.

This brief writing assignment allows students to depart from the almost exclusive focus on United States Supreme Court cases so common to constitutional law courses. It allows students to comprehend settled doctrine and analyze a contemporary application to determine if the doctrine is indeed "settled." Most significantly, it allows students to engage in writing that reflects their own interests and theoretical values.