Wednesday, February 1, 2017


In less than two weeks, Trump has become a petri dish for legal issues and law school discourse. Just as comedians are viewing Trump as a gift, law school faculty members may also see an opportunity. They can use Trump’s actions to stimulate discussions of legal issues, fundamental legal principles and the noble practice of law.

As an example, at the outset of this semester’s Comprehensive Pretrial Advocacy class that I teach at Seattle University Law School, we focus on drafting pleadings. We begin with drafting a complaint. The day before the class when this topic was discussed, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the first suit against Trump as President, alleging, “. . . countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments.” The legal theory is that Trump violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause. This current event brings the discussion of drafting a complaint to life. It can spawn not only a discussion of the development of the legal theory underpinning the complaint but also provide the students with a nice example of a well-crafted complaint, which can be found in the BuzzFeed News article. How often do you see a complaint that has been signed off on by Constitutional scholar Professor Lawrence Tribe?

When the Pretrial class met again this week Trump had generated yet a number of new complaints against him all across the country as a result of his executive order on immigration. The executive action raised for discussion the issues of due process as well as the remedies of habeas corpus and injunctive relief. Again, the news account in the New YorkTimes comes with the complaint that students can examine as they prepare to draft a complaint as part of their course work.  

Law schools are using Trump’s actions as opportunities to explore legal issues. American University Washington College of Law held a panel “teach in” on the immigration executive order; the panel discussion can be viewed on YouTube. American University’s action prompted Dean Annette Clark to pull together a panel of Seattle University Law School faculty to also discuss Trump’s actions with the students.

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