Posted May 15, 2020. To settle a pandemic-related financial crisis at UMass Dartmouth, law faculty are not receiving research compensation in summer 2020. I will be away from my desk, May 16 to August 15. Blog posts will be sparse, and I will not receive email. On the upside, summer 🌞! If you need to reach me, please send a message through the faculty assistants’ office (Ms. Cain and Ms. Rittenhouse). Stay thirsty.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Trump litigation in legal education: Come for the car wreck, stay for the seminar

Coinciding with the U.S. presidential election in the fall semester of 2020, August to November, I'll be teaching a 15-student seminar in "Trump Litigation."

Donald J. Trump is a phenomenon in U.S. litigation, principally litigation over obligations (contract and tort).  He and his enterprises are infamously litigious; perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of Trump litigation is USA Today's remarkable compilation of data from more than 4,000 cases, by investigative journalist Nick Penzenstadler and team.  This vast body of litigation offers at once a deep sea in which one can dive into the doctrine of torts, contracts, and civil procedure, and an opportunity to ask the big questions I relentlessly press on first-year law students, such as whether the common law litigation system represents a pinnacle in human achievement in dispute resolution, or a disastrous failure.

No one knows now whether Donald Trump will be "a thing" after January 2021.  So I thought this fall would be an optimal time to capitalize on the Trump phenomenon as a teaching opportunity.  Here is the short course description:
Trump Litigation Seminar.  Investigation of civil court cases involving Donald Trump, and his family and businesses, in personal rather than public capacities. In tandem with the 2020 election cycle, this seminar invites students to examine public litigation files to study advanced doctrine in obligations law, to witness litigation skills and strategy, and to analyze public policy in American civil dispute resolution. Final paper.
As described, this seminar is calculated to be something of a capstone experience for third-years, comprising threads of doctrinal study, litigation skills, and discussion of theory and policy.

As I previewed to co-panelists at the Law and Society Association and the Southeastern Association of Law Schools conferences in 2019, my plan was to create an open-source course module that would be ready in summer 2020 for adoption, in part or in whole, by faculty in law, political science, mass communication, or other areas, exploiting the same fall time frame to explore Trump litigation with students.

Unfortunately, that summer project won't happen.  The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found itself in a budget crisis after refunding student fees for room and board amid the coronavirus lockdown.  To help fill the hole, UMass Law canceled faculty compensation for summer 2020.

I plan still in the fall to use a blog page, ancillary to The Savory Tort and in conjunction with Dropbox cloud storage, to furnish resources for my seminar students.  To the extent that there might be any utility in those materials for anyone else, I am making the page public.  I will adapt and populate the page as I prepare the materials.  I have invested considerable effort in amassing and organizing litigation files on a range of key Trump cases, and it seems a shame to hoard them for my class, when they might be useful to others, whether for teaching, research, reporting, or just civic interest.

My focus here, again, will be to support my seminar, not, as originally planned, to support an open-source course module.  So I reserve the latitude to post what I want when I want to, and to make changes as it suits the needs of my class.  The page probably will undergo a lot of changes between now and when class starts in the second half of August, and more yet as the class develops in the fall.  That said, if you are a teacher, researcher, or journalist in need of something it looks like I might have but have not posted, or you have questions about what I've posted, please do reach out, and I'll help if I can—my availability being spotty while away from my desk until August 17.

Welcome to the Trump Litigation Seminar.

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