RELST 233: Semester-long Writing Project

The variety of writing projects assigned for this course is designed to provide you with both a deeper understanding of the course materials as well as an ability to compose, share, edit, argue, and reflect on information of any sort. The tasks have been developed to foster discussion, facilitate exploration of new ideas and directions, and clarify what at times are highly nuanced legal doctrines. The skills mastered in the process are intended to provide you with the ability and confidence to command not only the legal materials described on the syllabus, but ideas and information that may confront you long after the conclusion of this class.

Phase I (In-class Exercise: Editorial Response)

You will be given the facts to a case (actual or hypothetical) working its way up through the federal court system. You will be asked to respond in class to a set of facts even though we have not yet studied the significant historical contexts or the case law. You should be prepared to articulate an opinion.

Phase II (Historical/Documentary Argument)

You will create a response to the legal research case based on historical/documentary evidence covered in class to that point (including the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Statute, and the historical analysis we will have conducted).

Phase III (Legal Outline)

Based on the editorial responses (Phase 1) and the historical/documentary arguments (Phase 2), you will create legal arguments on which to justify your final decision concerning the facts of the legal research case. Building a legal argument means taking previous Supreme Court decisions (including both cases we will have discussed and ones we may not have) and, using those conclusions, arguing for a particular result for the legal research case.

[At this point you may realize that you no longer agree with your initial position—DO NOT feel that you must maintain that position any further. Establish your new position and use your initial response as a foil.]

Phase IV (Final Paper)

At the end of the semester you will submit a final copy of the legal research case paper based on the previous three phases, which will be a well constructed and well argued analysis of the legal research case.

While only the final product will be graded, each of the “Phases” is an important aspect in the development of the paper. Any of the “Phases” not submitted by the second Mid-Term Examination will result in a decreased grade for the final paper.

Each of these phases will be described in greater detail as they are approached on the class schedule.