New Casebooks Focus on the Practical

By: Sarah Ricks and Evelyn Tenenbaum

Many law teachers are eager to implement the ideas in Best Practices for Legal Education (2007) and in the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers (2007). But traditional casebooks are not focused on helping students to develop practice skills and professional identities – as the Carnegie Report recommends. Traditional casebooks are not designed to make it easy for the professor to “engage the students in active learning,” “give regular and prompt feedback,” “employ multiple methods of instruction,” or “use context-based instruction”  – all recommendations of Best Practices.

A new casebook series from Carolina Academic Press is designed to make it easy for professors to do all of the above. The series was designed by Michael Hunter Schwartz and is co-edited by Gerry Hess – the two directors of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning. Every book in the series attempts to actively engage students and help them envision their professional roles.

Sarah Ricks (Rutgers-Camden) and Evelyn Tenenbaum (Albany) have together written one of the upper level casebooks in the series, Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: Roles of the Courts, Attorneys, and Administrators (forthcoming late 2010). The book integrates teaching doctrine and skills. The approach is rooted in Sarah’s eleven years of law practice – including 7 litigating civil rights appeals for Philadelphia – and Evelyn’s 18 years litigating civil rights cases for the State of New York.

The focus is on practical materials to teach the constitutional and statutory doctrines necessary to litigate the most common current constitutional cases, those arising under the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. Throughout, there are exercises to help students simulate their future professional roles.

The law practice simulations allow students to creatively explore how attorneys shape and apply doctrine. Some involve doctrines that have split the federal circuits. Simulations include interoffice debates among attorneys deciding whether to appeal or seek certiorari; a jury charge conference; meetings with clients to decide the next steps in the litigation; a settlement conference before a mediator; testimony before a legislative body; and appellate oral arguments.

Unlike most constitutional law casebooks, this text includes not only Supreme Court decisions but differing circuit court applications of doctrine. But it is not limited to cases. The text illustrates doctrinal development by including model jury instructions, appellate oral arguments, appellate briefs, and expert reports.

To help students grasp the difficult choices faced by those on the front lines of constitutional decision making, the text includes factual background about the work of prison guards, police, and social workers. To remind students of the human faces behind the doctrines, the text includes statements by people affected by these doctrines, without the intermediary of a lawyer.

For example, the Eighth Amendment materials include excerpts from a Supreme Court oral argument, testimony by a correctional officer who assaulted a prisoner, jury instructions, a link to a video statement by a survivor of prison rape, and an interview with the lawyer who argued two of the Supreme Court cases. There are law practice simulations concerning medical treatment of inmates, prison gang violence, and housing of transgendered inmates.

The catalogue listing for the book is: Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming November 2010)

Books in the Context and Practice series make it easier for professors to use multiple teaching methods by providing banks of multiple-choice questions and essays and by providing exercises and simulations to help students reflect on their future professional roles.

2 Responses

  1. I reviewed the Contracts book in this series, and I was very impressed. If you question my qualifications to review a Contracts book, so did I, but I explain it in my review.

  2. Professor Evelyn Tenenbaum and Professor Sarah Ricks have just received an excellent review for their casebook “Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: Roles of the Courts, Attorneys, and Administrators.” You can find the review here: (

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