January 1, 2007

About those pop culture law school exam fact patterns.

I'm always basing my Civil Procedure II exam on some pop culture thing. CivPro2 here at UW covers jurisdiction and related topics, and I always need a fact pattern -- it doesn't matter what the substantive law is -- that involves a lot of people and places so I can generate some questions about who can join together in a lawsuit and where they can bring the suit and so forth.

In any given year, students could take bets on what pop culture phenomenon will turn up on the exam. If they'd done it this year, it would have been terribly easy to guess. It's "Borat." I changed the name, but basically it's a comedian traveling across the country provoking encounters... and sowing the seeds of lawsuits. It never matters whether the claims are sound or not. (I hope they're not!) I've simply got to create a controversy that has a somewhat complicated mix of people and places.

Does it add some fun to exam-taking, or is it annoying? I hope that, afterwards, it doesn't spoil the fun of the movie for the students. Ack! That was my Civil Procedure exam! I don't mean to do that.

Here's a list of a few things I've used for CivPro2 exams in the past: "The Apprentice," "The Blair Witch Project," "America's Funniest Home Videos," the Beach Boys' legal problems with Eugene Landy, "Supersize Me," "The Real World," the Cat in the Hat balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, paparazzi and the deaths of Princess Diana and Sonny Bono, stage diving at the Rave, the U.S. News law school rankings.

12 comments:

Karl said...

"Sonny Bono, stage diving at the Rave"? Oh wait, I misread that...but I like the mental image. I'd have liked to have seen the man who thought copyright should last, "forever minus a day" in a mosh pit.

-kd

Anonymous said...

I see shorter posts but identical twins.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry for the double posting. Blogger was acting up. Not the blogger, but Blogger.

Cedarford said...

The Cat in the Hat balloon tragedy is pop culture quinesscence.

A runaway symbol, generating mayhem.

With legal consequences.

Borat pales....

Homer said...

I always found pop culture references on exams sort of annoying. It sort of makes me think a teacher is trying desperately to seem 'cool' and 'hip' -- and during the exam, I'd like to be focusing on the task at hand, not harking back to what parts of the Borat movie, for example, I found to be funny

LoafingOaf said...

I disagree, Homer. Touches of humor and fun and pop culture references helped me relax and made it easier to read the fact patterns. A lot of those exams are so time-pressured, anything that relieves some of the stress and helps you read questions more quickly is appreciated!

class-factotum said...

I guess it would make it more interesting and fun if the students knew the references, but I grew up without TV outside the US (my dad was in the military and we lived abroad), so I never knew what anyone was talking about when they referred to TV shows or a lot of pop culture when I was in college. I didn't have a TV in college, either.

I did have one when I was in grad school, so as long you're discussing "30something," I'm OK, but I have been TV-less since 1992, so I am not intimately familiar with most of the references that you have made.

Anonymous said...

How many students came back with various Borat references, such as "Nice!" at the end of the blue book?

Doug Sundseth said...

IANAL, but it seems to me that you might want to include military servicemembers with varying "Home[s] of Record", "Legal Residence[s]", and current home addresses in your fact pattern. The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) might make for some interesting questions about jurisdiction.

Add in a few moves and a change of legal residence or two between tort and the beginning of the lawsuit for flavor.

Richard Fagin said...

How do you deal with reference to "Judge Sam Cooke" in a contracts exam by a race-baiting African American professor, when the professor obviously thought his students didn't knew who Sam Cooke was?

Easy. Just mention that the Judge got shot in a motel room.

Peace, Sam, your music is missed.

Jenna said...

Are your pop culture references obtuse or inclusive so that students must have some previous knowledge of them to complete the exam? Or do you write it so that the fact patterns can stand alone?

Anonymous said...

I have the same question as Jenna. I admit, I like straight facts and no games but that is one of the many reasons I decided to go into engineering;). If the details are just to lighten up the exam, I think that is cute. But, people may already have theoried answers to a question with Borat details. I know my husband and I have discussed the legal details that they could faces and we are just computer geeks. So you may just be handing out a dream questions to some and a complete unknown to others;).