Thinking Like a Lawyer

“Thinking like a Lawyer” at the ELI at FIU

This supplemental course conducted at the ELI at FIU will provide a general analytical framework for understanding the core concepts of the law in the United States and familiarize students with its legal system. Students will practice “thinking like a lawyer” in each session through weekly discussions on cases. Students will be required to analyze light reading on legal issues.

The course begins with the (i) nuts and bolts of the American legal system; (ii) discussions on the top U.S Supreme Court decisions; and (iii) discussions on the dynamics of the most relevant features of the American Legal System such as class-actions; plea bargaining in criminal law; judicial review; activist litigation and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRs).

Students without backgrounds in legal studies are also welcome to register.  Instructors from Florida International University College of Law will teach 10 sessions.

General Overview

I. Nuts and bolts on American legal system

  • Introduction to American law: a. Fundamental institutions; b. The Judicial branch and the role of the judges; c. Distinctive features of the American legal system. The doctrine of precedent (stare decisis).
  • Fundamentals of the American adversarial system.

II. Landmark decisions rendered by the SCOTUS: light class-discussions on their historical significance and legal impact.

1803 – Marbury v. Madison
1857 – Dred Scott v. Sandford
1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson
1944 – Korematsu v. United States –
1954 – Brown v. Board of Education
1961 – Mapp v. Ohio
1963 – Gideon v. Wainwright
1964 – New York Times v. Sullivan
1966 – Miranda v. Arizona
1967 – Loving v. Virginia
1968 – Terry v. Ohio
1973 – Roe v. Wade
1974 – United States v. Nixon
1978 – Regents of the U. of California v. Bakke
2008 – District of Columbia v. Heller
2010 – Citizens United v. FEC
2012 – National Federation of Independent Business et al v. Sebelius, Secretary of H.
2013 – United States v. Windsor
2015 – King et al, v. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al
2015 – Obergefell et al, v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al.
2016 – Fisher v. University of Texas
2016 – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

III. Dynamics of the most relevant features of the American Legal System: light discussions on class-actions, plea bargaining, judicial review, activist litigation and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRs).

  • Class-Actions.
  • Plea bargaining in criminal law.
  • Judicial Review.
  • Activist Litigation.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

IV. Minimum academic requirement:

  • Level of English 4/B1 or higher or,
  • IBT TOEFL: 57 or,
  • PBT TOEFL: 480

V. Tuition:

Schedule

Session 1:

Introduction to the Course and Fundamental Aspects of United States Law

  • General Overview of the American Legal Institutions
  • The Judicial Branch and the Role of the Judges
  • Basic Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States
  • Distinctive Features of the American Legal System
  • The Doctrine of Precedent (stare decisis)
  • Fundamentals of the American Adversarial System

Session 2: 
Class Discussion on US Supreme Court Landmark Decisions

 Students are required to make oral presentations on one of the following cases, explaining the lay facts, the ruling and their legal social impact

1803 – Marbury v. Madison
1857 – Dred Scott v. Sandford
1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson
1944 – Korematsu v. United States –
1954 – Brown v. Board of Education
1961 – Mapp v. Ohio
1963 – Gideon v. Wainwright
1964 – New York Times v. Sullivan
1966 – Miranda v. Arizona
1967 – Loving v. Virginia
1968 – Terry v. Ohio
1973 – Roe v. Wade
1974 – United States v. Nixon
1978 – Regents of the U. of California v. Bakke
2008 – District of Columbia v. Heller
2010 – Citizens United v. FEC
2012 – National Federation of Independent Business et al v. Sebelius, Secretary of H.
2013 – United States v. Windsor
2015 – King et al, v. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al
2015 – Obergefell et al, v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al.
2016 – Fisher v. University of Texas
2016 – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Session 3:
Introduction to Torts in the United States

  • Overview and Definition of Torts in United States Law. Intentional Torts
  • Strict Liability and Product Liability

Session 4:
Legal Profession and Legal Education in the United States

  • The Legal Education in the US
  • The Legal Profession in the US

Session 5:
Criminal Law in the United States

  • Basics of Criminal Law
  • Plea Bargaining
  • The Jury

Session 6:
Contracts in the United States.

  • Basics of Contract Law in the US
  • Discussion of Common Cases

 Session 7:
Civil Litigation in the United States  

  • Pre-trial and Discovery
  • The Jury
  • Punitive Damages
  • Class-Actions

Session 8:
Alternative Dispute Resolution   

  • Basics on ADRs
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration

 Session 9:
Copyright and Trademark in the United States

  • Basics of Copyright, Trademark & Fair Use
  • Discussion of Common Cases

Session 10:
Taxation of Individuals and Entities

  • Basics of Taxation in the US
  • Common Problems in the Taxation of Individuals and Entities

Academic Coordination

Prof. Gilberto A. Guerrero-Rocca
(JSM, Stanford Law School. WDA Legal.
International Legal Program Manager, FIU College of Law).

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