J.D. First-Year Curriculum

The Curriculum

At Moritz, first-year J.D. students take an established core curriculum of required courses to lay the intellectual foundation for a successful career in the law. Students take coursework focusing on fundamental subjects in the study of law; developing analytical, legal reasoning, and writing skills; and fostering an understanding of professional judgment. The first year establishes sound building blocks for the advanced, and almost entirely elective, coursework in the second and third years of study.

Civil Procedure I

Civil Procedure I introduces students to the civil litigation process in federal and state courts. This course focuses on the kinds of disputes courts have the power to decide, the law and strategy involved in selecting a particular forum, the impact forum choice may have on the parties, who is bound by the court’s judgment, and the effect decisions in one action may have on subsequent actions. It provides an overview of the unique features of the litigation process necessary to determine the direct and indirect costs of litigation as a dispute resolution device, as well as alternatives to litigation.

Contracts

Contracts is the body of law concerned with private agreements. The course focuses on when promises are given legal weight, how contracts are formed, when they are and are not enforced, what their terms mean, and what remedies are available when they are breached. In addition, students discuss contract negotiation and drafting, legal planning issues, and international and comparative aspects of contract law. The course emphasizes both the influence of contract law on transactions and how courts deal with contracts in legal disputes.

Criminal Law

Criminal Law covers the moral and penological principles underlying the definition of crime, such as the requirements of actus reus and mens rea, and general doctrines such as mistakes of fact and law, and causation. The course also considers inchoate offenses, such as criminal attempts and conspiracy, as well as doctrines of complicity. The course also considers full and partial defenses to crimes, such as self-defense, provocation, and insanity. In considering the process of translating these principles into law, specific offenses, such as criminal homicide and rape, and their development through the common law and modern statutes, are studied in detail.

Legal Analysis and Writing I

This course introduces students to legal institutions and processes; methods of legal analysis; research sources and strategies; professionalism issues that confront new lawyers; and effective communication with clients, colleagues, and other audiences. Students engage in oral interactions and prepare written documents that respond to simulated client problems; professors provide extensive individualized feedback on these projects.

Legal Analysis and Writing II

This course continues the work of Legal Analysis and Writing I, using more sophisticated client problems. In addition to honing research, writing, oral communication, and professionalism skills learned during the first semester, students learn to write as advocates. In that role, they explore differences between persuasive communications and predictive ones. Students also identify tools for improving their research and writing skills throughout their careers. Professors once again offer detailed feedback throughout the semester.

Legislation and Regulation

Legislatures and the administrative agencies they empower are the sources of most lawmaking and law implementation in contemporary society. Thus while other first year courses dominantly involve the work of the courts and the reading of judicial opinions, this course focuses on legislatures and agencies as law-generating institutions. We will use statutes, regulations, and other administrative and legislative documents, along with judicial opinions, as primary learning materials. The course will consider rationales for regulatory legislation, legislative decisions to create institutions other than courts to carry out legislative goals, and the place of administrative agencies in our constitutional design. Because statutes are the source of both agency authority and significant limits on that authority, significant attention will be devoted to legislative process and statutory interpretation. We will also investigate the processes by which federal agencies promulgate regulations, and how they are held accountable both to elected officials—–the President and Congress—–and through review by an independent judiciary.

Property

This course examines traditional and modern concepts of property, including ownership, the creation of interests held in personal and real property, the transfer of such interests, and private and public restrictions upon the use of property. While much of the course will focus on issues involving the possession, ownership, and use of land by private parties, topics covered may also include property rights in ideas, body parts, and other intangibles; zoning; protection of minority or economically disadvantaged groups; or eminent domain.

Torts

Torts examines the doctrinal, theoretical, and policy dimensions of civil liability for harm to persons, property, and certain other interests. Attention is focused on three main theories of liability: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability. Students may encounter such cutting-edge legal issues as informed consent in medical malpractice, interference with reproductive choice, manufacturer liability for defective products, toxic and environmental torts, among others. Through the study of torts, students receive an introduction to litigation, evidence, expert witnesses, and problems of proof.