a website for classes taught by William H. Widen

FALL 2017


Meeting times and place before start of regular semester
: The first class meeting will be held on Monday, August 7, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon in room F309 [and not room E352].  During this week before the start of the regular semester, classes also will be held at the same time and in the same room on Tuesday, August 8, Wednesday, August 9, Thursday, August 10 and Friday, August 11.

Thereafter, the class will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m to 10:50 a.m. in room E352.  NOTE that no regular class will be held on Monday, September 11, 2017.

Electronics in class: When in class, you must have your cellphone turned OFF or on SILENT mode.  You may use a computer in class but ONLY to take notes, look up material related to class--such as on the Helpful Links page, or deal with an emergency email.

Note taking: The Professor recommends that you take your notes in class with a pen and notebook, spending more time listening and thinking than writing (or typing if you ignore the recommendation).  To facilitate listening and thinking over note taking, the outlines of the first week of lectures appear below in written form.

Class Problems for Discussion
: This space is where class problems for discussion will be posted.  Students should read, study and review the applicable class problem for discussion PRIOR to the class during which the problem will be discussed.  In a typical United States law school class, students are expected to prepare material prior to attending class (rather than attending class, with study of materials  covered to be conducted independently after class).  Prior preparation of material facilitates class discussion and allows the instructor to use the so-called "Socratic method" of questioning students.  After a class, students typically study their notes taken during the class and discuss among themselves the results of the class discussion.  Students sometimes form themselves into small study groups to prepare for a class discussion and to further discuss the outcome of the class discussion after completion of the class.

Discussion Problem No. 1 (it is recommended that you start working on this problem before the first class, though it is expected that it will not be discussed until the second class meeting)  NOTE: This is a detailed and complicated problem which is designed to illustrate a number of points.  It is the only problem that we will consider during the first week of class.  It will be considered over a number of class periods.  There is a small research component to the problem which you need not attempt during your first pass through the problem.  The research component may not be addressed until after the first week of class.  We will spend as much time as it takes for students to work through all of the issues presented.  The problem will be supplemented with written hints and analysis, as needed.

Discussion Problem No. 2   This problem will be considered following completion of Lecture 5. 

Meeting times and place during the regular semester: Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. --10:50 a.m. in room E352. NOTE THAT THE MEETING TIMES AND THE ROOM DIFFER FROM THE FIRST WEEK!

Office hours
: Professor Widen will generally be available on the Bricks following class meetings to discuss the course with students.  A request for a meeting by appointment may be made through Professor Widen's faculty assistant, Tina Sutton.

Communication with students: Professor Widen uses your UM Law email account to make class announcements, provide additional information and distribute supplemental materials or announce their posting to this site.  Make sure that your email account does not get full and be sure to check it with regularity.

Required Text

  * E. Allan Farnsworth, An introduction to the legal system of the United States, fourth edition, Oxford University Press 2010 [hereafter, INTRO TEXT].  OXFORD INTRO TEXT LINKAMAZON INTRO TEXT LINK .  The INTRO TEXT is available at the prior links.  It should also be available at the bookstore on the UM Campus when you arrive in Coral Gables.  Note that this book is also available in Kindle format should you want to download it for reading prior to acquiring a paper copy.

  * Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Common Law [hereafter CL TEXT].  GUTENBERG CL TEXT LINK .  There is no need to purchase the CL Text.  It is available for free at the prior link.  However, it may be purchased in paperback form or ebook form from a variety of sources, including Amazon. AMAZON CL TEXT LINK .

Reading Prior to August 7, 2017: Students are encouraged to read INTRO TEXT prior to the first day of class if they have time.  Such a first reading should be done like one would read a novel or other light reading.  Do not worry about taking notes or memorizing the material.  Simply read INTRO TEXT to give yourself a preview of the system that we will be studying in more detail during the course.  Specific chapters of the book (or parts thereof) will be assigned for more detailed reading to accompany course lectures and problems.

First Week Reading and Assignments:

Students should read the assigned lectures linked below before class.  Within each lecture students will find cross-references to pages of the assigned text (which should be read before class) as well as links to additional material which should be reviewed before class.

DO NOT PANIC OVER THE FIRST WEEK OF ASSIGNMENTS.  Will will proceed in order through these introductory topics.  Even if we "get through" all of the material during the first week, we will revisit the topics during the semester to make sure that students arrive at a working understanding of the materials.  Indeed, if we only address the first three lectures and Problem No. 1 during the first week, that will be just fine.  More extended materials are set forth here to provide a more complete overview of the introduction to the legal system and to make sure that we do not run out of material to discuss during the first week. [Tip: If you want to print-out copies of the lectures you might wait to print until after the lecture has been given in case the Instructor has made any last minute modifications.  Alternately, just check the date and time on which the page was posted to make sure your print version is the most recent version.]

Monday, August 7, 2017: Introductory Remarks (including consideration of a governing law and forum choice clause); begin Lecture 1-Federalism.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: continue Lecture 1-Federalism; Lecture 2-Common Law.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: Lecture 3-Structure of the Federal Courts.  Be prepared for Discussion Problem No. 1.

Thursday, August 10, 2017: Lecture 4-The Federal Courts and Other Branches of Government.

Friday, August 11, 2017: Lecture 5-What the Federal Courts Do/Jurisdiction.

* * *

Monday, August 14, 2017:  Discussion Problem No. 2 .

Additional Reading: Reading during the course may be supplemented by notice to student email accounts based upon progress made.  Each week via an email to students Professor Widen will indicate the materials that he expects will be covered during the following week.

Factulty Assistant to Prof. Widen: Tina Sutton, tsutton@law.miami.edu .  Requests for an appointment to meet with Professor Widen, as well as notifications of absences should be sent to Ms. Sutton.

Attendance Policy
: Students are required to attend class meetings in the absence of a personal emergency.  Personal emergencies do not include job interviews, attending a birthday party and other matters which would not be considered appropriate by a real world employer.  Should a student need to miss a class, the student should send an email with an explanation to Tina Sutton at tsutton@law.miami.edu with a heading titled INTRO/US LAW ABSENCE prior to missing the class.

Exam Format: The exam will consist of multiple choice questions and one or more essay questions. The course will be graded on a PASS/FAIL basis.  A student who does not pass the initial final exam will be able to retake the exam to achieve a passing grade.  Student with poor class attendance may be assigned extra work in order to obtain credit for the class.

Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability, or suspect that you may have a disability, the Law School encourages you to contact the Office of Disability Services, website at www.law.miami.edu/disability-services, or the Dean of Students.

Course Description

This course introduces students to the structure of the United States legal system. 

During the first week of class before the start of the regular fall semester the course will have five extended class sessions of three hours each.  Thereafter, the course will meet twice a week for one and a half hours during each class meeting.  Classroom instruction will end in late September.

The primary goal of the class is to prepare foreign lawyers to successfully take regular courses in a United States law school, without having taken the traditional JD curriculum, with a view toward obtaining an LLM degree.  To achieve this goal a particular emphasis will be placed on the structure of the various court systems in the United States, the jurisdiction of these courts, the procedure followed in these courts and important choice of law issues.

Class time will be divided between lectures and problem solving involving class discussion (including an introduction to the Socratic method).  The lectures will cover the following topics: Federalism and its operation in the United States; the Common Law and its operation in the United States; How the Federal Courts are organized;  What the Federal Courts Do; the Federal Courts and their relationship to other branches of government; How a case moves through the Federal Courts (with a discussion of a civil case, a criminal case and a bankruptcy case); Traditional division of substantive law into categories (including contract law, property law, tort law and criminal law); The Various Sources of United States Law; and, An overview of the Bill of Rights.  The problem solving aspects of the course will be based upon materials prepared and distributed by the instructor, including case law reading and interpretation.

To help students integrate into other US law classes, the first week of instruction is expected to be more heavily devoted to lecture (though a few problems also will be considered during the first week).

Last Modified: Monday, 07-Aug-2017 07:55:54 EDT