CMN 637 (01) - Controversy and Reasoning in Law

Controversy & Reasoning in Law

Credits: 4.0
Term: Spring 2020 - Full Term (01/21/2020 - 05/04/2020)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Class Size:   20  
CRN: 53373
Uses rhetorical analysis and criticism to evaluate communication practices in courtroom disputes. Compares conventional American litigation to alternative methods. Explains how stages of a trial shape communication options and norms. Illustrates common subjects and forms for judicial reasoning. Prereq:: CMN 455, CMN 456, CMN 457, and two CMN 500-level courses. Writing intensive.
Instructor Approval Required. Contact Instructor for permission then register through Webcat.
Prerequisite(s): CMN 455 with minimum grade of C- and CMN 456 with minimum grade of C- and CMN 457 with minimum grade of C-
Only listed campus in section: Durham
Classes not allowed in section: Freshman
Attributes: Writing Intensive Course
Instructors: STAFF

Times & Locations

Start Date End Date Days Time Location
1/21/2020 5/4/2020 TR 5:10pm - 6:30pm HORT 115
Additional Course Details: 

 

Course Goals & Design:

What do we know about the rhetorical situations a law office typically faces in representing a client, prosecuting a charge, or defending against one? How could you, as a prospective or seasoned communication specialist, contribute to the everyday work of a law office, even if, as probably will be the case, you are not a lawyer?

This course invites you to explore that possible role. By the end of the course, you will be able to explain, in a casual conversation or for a job interview, what best practices in communication a professional rhetorician can model and reinforce in the daily work flows of such an office.

Texts:

Rieke, Richard D. & Randall K. Stutman. (1990). Communication in Legal Advocacy. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 30th Anniversary Edition. Harper Perennial, 2016. ISBN: 978-0060891541.

Major Assignments:

  • Sentencing Arguments & Policy Manual Section on Guidelines for Best Practices. In response to a recent publicly reported trial (one that resulted in a conviction, but for which no sentencing decision has yet been made), prepare a closing argument for either the prosecution or defense. The recommendation should on the nature and/or length of the proposed sentence. If you choose to reference additional evidence beyond that presented at the trial or reported in the media, you must submit into the case record the document or deposition transcript (which must be plausible and fit what already is known about the defendant and situation) at least one week before the scheduled date for in-class arguments.

    As a separate but related part of the assignment, identify and explain at least two general principles of best practices for such closing arguments. Draw on your knowledge of communication and rhetorical theory, cite all relevant sources, and explain how or why the principles are among the most important for representatives of the law office to heed and internalize.
     
  • Compare Job Descriptions for Possible Legal Communication Specialists. Interview a staff member at a law office that employs a designated communication professional and also another staff member at an office that does not presently (or yet) do so. Ask what the job description for that person is (at an office that employs one) and what such a position might include or involve were an office without one to consider adding such a person. Ask to see the office’s communication policy manual and/or other written guidelines, if available, that the office uses to characterize best practices. Finally, ask about an example the staff member is free to share with you in which the judgment about how to approach the communication situation was challenging or otherwise complicated. Compare the results of these interviews in a written report and oral presentation.   
     
  • Case Related Press Release or Courthouse Statement (&Policy Manual Section on Guidelines for Best Practices). See above.
     
  • Closing Arguments at Trial, for Petit Jury. See above.

Booklist

Rieke, Richard D. & Randall K. Stutman. (1990). Communication in Legal Advocacy. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 30th Anniversary Edition. Harper Perennial, 2016. ISBN: 978-0060891541.