The Jury Is In: New Cases Deliberate Social Issues in Cyberspace

New Products: The Art of Deliberation; The Snowden Effect; Thinking Big: Bringing Big Sport’s Energy and Innovation to Education; The Decriminalization of Marijuana in Jamaica: A Key Step toward International Legalization?; The Color of Police Action in these United States

A new suite of free workshop-based case studies convenes participants in juries to deliberate important social issues of our time. Designed for Professor Charles Nesson’s HarvardX online course, JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change, these multimedia case studies include first-hand footage of current events, interviews with key players in the cases, and commentary from Professor Nesson. Participants are challenged to examine and rethink the concept of jury, as well as to be active participants in the deliberative process.

The course began with an introductory note, The Art of Deliberation, surveying elegant approaches for deliberating without rancor. Participants were introduced to historical legal cases (Vosberg v. Putney, Palsgraf v. LIRR, Commonwealth v. Hebert), deliberating alone or in pairs before entering the small group jury. Then, in each new module, the juries convened to reach verdicts on issues that increased in emotional tenor:

  • The Snowden Effect considers individual identity and anonymity through the lens of Edward Snowden’s NSA leak. This case study provides background on the state’s view of privacy, in order to approach privacy from the citizen’s point of view: in relation to others, through stages of anonymity, pseudonymity, and nymity. Participants must consider: “Who are we, the people of and on the net?” Participants deliberate whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor as well as how to feel about the actions of Snowden and the State.
  • Thinking Big: Bringing Big Sport’s Energy and Innovation to Education considers the possibilities for international sporting events to advance society. The case reviews the experiences of Brazil preparing for the World Cup and the Summer Olympics as well as Boston’s recent (now unsuccessful) bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Participants convene a jury and use Socratic questioning for cross-examination, with the aim of reaching a verdict on the opportunities and challenges that face host cities.
  • The Decriminalization of Marijuana in Jamaica: A Key Step toward International Legalization? surveys the legal and social history of marijuana in Jamaica, following for comparison the international trends in legalization. Participants negotiate an agreement between Rastafarian marijuana growers and the Jamaican Minister of Justice regarding the Cannabis Cup, a competition and celebration of the skill of growing marijuana. Through Socratic questioning and the objective of jury unanimity, participants find common ground.
  • The Color of Police Action in these United States brings the deliberative process to bear on one of the most difficult and divisive controversies of late, a true crisis of humanity: the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement across the country. The case examines the deaths of two African Americans, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, respectively. By reviewing the grand jury decisions, the nationwide protests in response, and the ideologically tinged interpretations of these events, participants are prepared to constitute themselves as a grand jury and decide the cases themselves.

Though the cases themselves are rich with detail, information transfer is not the goal. JuryX seeks to teach students to become better citizens and deliberators. The jury pedagogy illustrates the power of consensus in solving multistakeholder issues, and the creativity that comes from collaboration, anonymity, and the power of the people. Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature technology tools and course exercises that made JuryX an open, honest cyberspace.

JuryX case studies are available free of charge from the Case Studies website.

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Keys to Facilitating Successful Student Group Work

by Amanda Reilly

Working in teams is an important part of being an effective learner and employee, yet students from high school through professional schools tend to groan when teachers assign a team project.  How can teachers foster positive attitudes before, during and after group experiences?

“It’s not about loving the group work; it’s about developing the skills,” said Dr. Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks and the keynote speaker at the 2015 spring seminar of Simmons College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Weimer, a renowned authority on effective college teaching, presented on successful methods for encouraging effective student group work. She said that although professors typically encourage their students to be “self-directed learners” (rather than “groupies,” who depend on others to learn), educators still must cultivate rewarding group experiences so that students can be productive in a variety of educational and professional scenarios.

Dr. Weimer detailed several ways in which teachers can facilitate student group work:

  • Focus on the details. Early in their work together, group members must delineate expectations, clarify roles, understand each other’s work styles, and commit to how they will work together. When group members establish their own group norms, they lay a solid foundation for their work, such as a group member “bill of rights” – what the group has a right to expect from each member.
  • Maintain an ideal size. What group size is most effective? Dr. Weimer argues that the ideal group is small enough for all members to share their opinions and large enough for diversity of views. A group with three members often does not possess enough diversity of thought and resources; in a group of six or seven members, some members may remain silent during discussions, and work may be divided inequitably. A group of five members is often ideal, eliminating the concerns associated with both smaller and larger groups.
  • Thoughtfully construct the group. With diversity in mind, teachers should assemble groups according to a common interest. If you allow students to self-select, it is important to help them build diverse teams. Self-selection, however, can cause introverted students undue stress and social anxiety. Weimer has found that students who don’t know each other before they do group work often create the most outstanding work, whereas students who already know each other tend to socialize more and make less progress during group work, thereby not producing exceptional results.
  • Don’t underestimate peer pressure. Students who don’t carry their own weight (e.g., “social loafers,” “freeloaders”) or who dominate and exclude (e.g., “alpha lone wolves”) have to acclimate to the group dynamic. Group conflict can be a valuable opportunity for personal growth. Dr. Weimer asks that groups share techniques for effective communication and team member accountability with the class, ensuring that each student brings something to the experience.
  • Discuss and share best practices to help groups process problems. Facilitate group work by empowering groups to solve their own problems. This helps group members understand that they are responsible for their problems and that overcoming obstacles is part of the group work process. Collaboration is a valuable part of learning how to work effectively in groups, so it is essential for teachers to provide vehicles for students to communicate and share, such as online wikis or Google Docs. Urge groups to observe how other groups communicate, or assign groups the task of making study guides for other groups.
  • Use peer formative feedback and provide summative feedback. Students are more accountable to each other when they understand that a portion of their grade is based on peer formative feedback. Formative assessment can help students identify not only their strengths but also opportunities for improvement. This type of process feedback can help groups with the parsing of duties, and assessment of their group needs. Also, remember that students place the most value on the teacher’s summative feedback, typically conveyed through a final evaluation of a group’s process and end product.

Group collaboration is an essential skill for students to learn before they enter the professional world, and the collaborative classroom is an ideal place in which students can develop this skill. With a foundation with which to build better groups, students not only learn teamwork accountability and commitment, but also enhance their ability to master course content.

Dr. Maryellen Weimer has a loyal following of educators from law, medicine, and business programs at colleges and universities across the country. More than 15,000 educators subscribe to her newsletter and read her weekly blog, The Teaching Professor Blog. If you are curious about how to incorporate learner-centered policies, practices, techniques, and approaches in your classroom, check out Dr. Weimer’s teaching resources and strategies at

Amanda Reilly is the Program Associate for HLS Case Studies.


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Anatomy of a Copyright Case: The Challenges and Opportunities of a Semester-Long Case Study

EM: Hank Gutman HLS ’75, Lecturer on Law at HLS, was counsel for the plaintiff in Lotus Development Corporation v. Borland International, Inc. (516 U.S. 233), a landmark case in software copyright. Last week on our blog, Gutman reflected on his spring reading group at HLS, “Anatomy of a Copyright Case.” Over the course of a semester, the reading group traced Lotus v. Borland from problem to complaint to the Supreme Court. For six two-hour sessions, students pored over case files, pleadings, and briefs to understand what happened and why, and to craft winning strategies and arguments.

Today, Gutman shares with us the challenges and opportunities presented by teaching a single, semester-long case study:

Hank Gutman

Hank Gutman

HG: From a teaching perspective, the principal challenge and opportunity was deciding which of the numerous issues presented were worth pursuing in the limited time available.  For example, Borland raised a fair use defense very late in the case, and there were interesting procedural questions about the way in which that happened.  Fair use is a critically important copyright issue today – you could teach an entire course about it – but how much time did it deserve in discussing a case where it was just an afterthought?

The case also offered the opportunity to pursue issues law students don’t normally encounter. For instance, the lengthy and scholarly decisions written by the District Judge—Robert Keeton, a distinguished member of the HLS faculty—presented a wide array of procedural questions, including whether copyrightability is for the judge or a jury to decide, what is a genuine issue of fact for summary judgment purposes, when is a decision ripe to be certified for interlocutory appeal, etc.  There was even an issue at the outset over whether the case should proceed in front of Judge Keeton (who had just decided Lotus’s case against another alleged infringer), or in San Francisco, where Borland had filed its own declaratory judgment action a few days earlier.  As counsel, how would you address that problem?  Are you better off asking one judge to enjoin proceedings in the court of the other, or should you ask one of the judges to stand aside and defer? This is a very delicate, real-life issue the students were asked to decide.

Another example: when the case went to the Supreme Court, there was a huge fight within the US government over whether the government would take a position by filing  an amicus brief and, if so, on which side.  On one side, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Office, and the US Trade Representative wanted Lotus to prevail.  At the DOJ, the Antitrust Division sided with Borland, and the Solicitor General’s office seemed to agree.  The White House Counsel’s office had to referee the dispute and the assignment fell to then-Associate White House Counsel Elena Kagan.   We reviewed in class a number of the key memos and even a draft brief prepared, but never filed, by the Solicitor General’s office.  This is a side of legal practice law students don’t often see.

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Anatomy of a Copyright Case: How to Spend a Semester Dissecting a Case Study

Hank Gutman HLS ’75, Lecturer on Law at HLS, was counsel for the plaintiff in Lotus Development Corporation v. Borland International, Inc. (516 U.S. 233), a landmark case in software copyright.  Lotus sued Borland for copyright infringement of Lotus 1-2-3, a popular spreadsheet application in the years before Microsoft Excel. At issue was the menu in Borland’s Quattro Pro spreadsheet program, modeled after Lotus 1-2-3: the text and hierarchy were the same, but the code was different. The court initially sided with Lotus, but appeals favored Borland. When the case went before the Supreme Court, the decision was a 4-4 tie.

Gutman’s spring reading group, “Anatomy of a Copyright Case,” traced Lotus v. Borland from problem to complaint to the Supreme Court. Over six two-hour sessions, students pored over case files, pleadings, and briefs to understand what happened and why, and to craft winning strategies and arguments. Gutman reflected on the inaugural semester of the reading group:

EM: How was the case presented and discussed?

Hank Gutman

Hank Gutman

HG:  Most law school courses are taught from edited excerpts of appellate decisions. They start with the conclusion of the case, when the court has provided an answer. We began at the opposite end of the process, with the initial problem, the way a lawyer in practice would. You look at the facts and the statutes available and try to decide what should be done.

I thought this would be a good case study because the suit went all the way to the Supreme Court and ended in a tie vote, so there was no ultimate decision. The students could decide for themselves. The case was an attractive teaching tool because it covered a wide array of substantive copyright questions without easy answers, allowing students to think creatively. It also contained a wide array of procedural issues relating to trial and appellate practice and litigation strategy.  We tried to address both.

Each class, I took up a different phase in the ten-year life of this case . A lot of time was spent asking students to put themselves in the lawyer’s shoes. What would you have done and why? What if you were counsel for the other side?

This case, at the time, was probably the most highly publicized copyright case in the country.  But it isn’t just ancient history. There is an important dispute today between Oracle and Google over Google using Java in its Android platform. As we speak, a certiorari petition is pending before the Supreme Court in which Google told the Court that this is its chance finally to decide the issues it considered in Lotus v. Borland.   We spent our last class talking about the current case and how our analysis of Lotus might apply to its facts.

In addition to the case materials we assigned, we included a fair amount of supplemental material. It was quite a lot to read. Other syllabi might assign particular pages of a case, but when students leave law school and begin to practice, no one tells them what pages to read. They need to decide for themselves which are the most important parts of the materials, and I’m pleased to say the students did.

EM: Did your personal experience in this trial shape your teaching or class discussion? What advice do you have for instructors without this personal experience?

HG: I had ready access to some of the materials that would have been hard for others to dig up.  And in some instances, after we had discussed the strategic and tactical choices confronting counsel, I could shed some light on the actual decision making processes of the parties. But personally, it was very interesting for me to relive that litigation from the perspective of bright young law students who took a fresh look at it all. The students had very creative ideas and insights—it was terrific fun. They ended up teaching me material that I thought I already knew really well. The students arrived with a deep interest in copyright and its application to technology; even in a one-credit ungraded course, they dug into the material.

For instructors building a course around a single case, the main goal is to read and become intimately familiar with the materials, which is easier if someone’s collected them for you. I recommend that instructors remain open to the ideas and input of the students. If case teaching works the way it should, students are doing the teaching themselves.

EM: With such a well-known case, how did you address the fact that students might rely on retrospection or outside knowledge?

HG: Since there was no written decision from the Supreme Court, the students couldn’t look up a definitive answer. But in putting together readings for each week, my teaching team did consider how we wanted the story to unfold. We had an eye on what we wanted the class discussion to entail each week, and tried to allocate the readings so that the students would have enough material to discuss how they would have addressed that week’s issues, without yet having read, for example, the District Court’s opinion resolving the questions.  But in our class discussions, the students did not show the slightest hesitation  in disagreeing with either the courts or counsel.


EM: How did students react to the case study? Did anything surprise you in the classroom?

HG: I was pleased, but not surprised, that the students showed up each week well prepared, having read the materials, and ready to share their opinions in class.  For our last class on Lotus v. Borland, the students were asked to read the Supreme Court briefs, read or listen to the oral arguments and then, in class, to pretend they were the Supreme Court and to decide the case.  In the actual case, Lotus got four votes in the Supreme Court; in class, only two students thought Lotus should win.  So much for telling the teacher what he wanted to hear!  I was delighted, because it demonstrated that the students undertook their own independent analysis of the issues.

EM: What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

HG: I am sure that the second time through I might tweak the materials a bit, perhaps dropping an issue or two and adjusting the emphasis. We did cover a lot of ground in 12 hours.  Also, because the class was a reading group, we couldn’t assign written work. If this had been a seminar, we might have asked the students to brief an issue or, for a final assignment, write the missing Supreme Court opinion. There was certainly enough material available to fill a semester-long seminar.

A case study on Lotus v. Borland is forthcoming from HLS Case Studies. Hank Gutman is of counsel at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP, where he created and until recently chaired the Intellectual Property Practice Group.

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In LCLD Pathfinder Program, Case Studies Help Young Lawyers Consider Future Challenges in their Careers

Products: Sponsorship at Wilmer Cutler and Pickering (A): Yoon-Young Lee; From Brussels to Paris

The Pathfinder Program, an associate leadership development program by the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, used two case studies from Harvard Law School to teach early-career lawyers to think proactively about challenges that might arise in the course of their careers.

LCLD, formed in 2009, works to develop diverse attorney talent to lead organizations and foster inclusiveness in society; its 220 members are general counsel or managing partners at leading corporations and law firms. The Pathfinder Program, which was launched this year, has been designed to provide early-career attorneys with “internal professional networks through relationship building skills; foundational leadership skills; and an understanding of career development strategies applicable to both in-house and law firm practice.” The curriculum includes face-to-face workshops, break-out sessions, and discussions; experiential online modules on Sponsorship, Career Management/Goal Setting, and Interrupting Bias; advice and networking with Fellows; facilitators at the participants’ workplace that ensure Pathfinder lessons are germane; and peer groups for networking and learning.


Carrie Fletcher, Executive Director of HLS Executive Education

Carrie Fletcher, Executive Director of Executive Education at Harvard Law School, worked with LCLD Program Director Lori Lorenzo to design a case study module within the broader Pathfinder program. Fletcher says, “Young professionals are under enormous pressure with billing and revenue generation. There is often not much time to stop and reflect on personal challenges and accomplishments, client needs, or strategic objectives.” Pathfinder, and the case studies it uses, offer that time for reflection and growth.

In mid-April, Fletcher joined the Pathfinders in Chicago to teach Sponsorship at Wilmer Cutler and Pickering (A): Yoon-Young Lee to a breakout group for law firm associates. The case is often taught to a more senior audience—partners who are in a position to serve as sponsors—but Fletcher shaped the discussion around how associates themselves can help develop a culture of sponsorship in their firms.  The group discussed what actions they might take to position themselves to be sponsored, as well as ideas for how to find sponsors and how, at an associate level, to work toward a sponsorship culture. Fletcher explains, “You can’t assign or dictate sponsorship relationships, but you can create a culture that is ripe for sponsorship relationships.” Sponsorship, says Fletcher, is not necessarily a widespread conception in law firms, and to really take hold the philosophy must be embedded in different tiers of the firm. As Fletcher notes, “the Yoon-Young case shows that people who fill sponsor roles get a lot out of the experience too”; this encourages early-career lawyers not to be shy about seeking sponsorship. The Wilmer Cutler B Case, which provides the sponsor’s perspective, helps participants consider the actions and traits of a good sponsor and how a young associate might emulate those.

The Pathfinders breakout group for in-house counsel discussed From Brussels to Paris with John Mitchell, a consultant who has experience teaching cases. “These are high-level business-legal tensions, showing the reality of some of the problems above the pay grade of junior inside counsel,” says Fletcher. “The case also provides a basis for a more targeted discussion about the precise challenges that more junior inside lawyers face in their roles.” How do newer lawyers become ready for these tensions? How do these tensions translate down to the work of lawyers who are not yet in a general counsel role? What conflicts or tensions might associates face in their current roles? Fletcher says, “We agreed that, although From Brussels to Paris is dealing with business issues that are more sophisticated than younger lawyers likely face, it is a terrific discussion starter for the complexity of working as counsel inside an organization.”

These case studies not only educate diverse future leaders, but also promote diverse intellectual skills. Fletcher explains, “For lawyers, case studies are a different way of learning—learning by story. And in well-done case study discussions, of course, lawyers will learn from each other. The storyline and structure of the cases can sometimes make it easier to talk about difficult, challenging, or complicated topics.”

HLS continues its partnership with LCLD in June, when senior members attend a leadership program on campus.

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Is Your Case Teaching Learner-Centered? It’s Harder Than You Think

By Amanda Reilly


It might seem self-evident that teaching is learner-centered, but the traditional lecture and rote memorization model actually doesn’t put students first.  To address this issue, Dr. Maryellen Weimer wrote Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. Dr. Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks and 2015 keynote and guest presenter at Simmons College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching spring seminar uses innovative teaching practices to develop students’ independence and empower them to take responsibility for their own learning.

During her presentation at Simmons College, Dr. Weimer, who has been described as “one of the nation’s most highly-regarded authorities on effective college teaching,” explained the five characteristics of learner-centered teaching:

  • Students should do the hard, messy work of learning. Teachers too often take on many of the learning activities that students should be doing. For example, students should engage in the process of summarization before the end of class instead of the teacher recapping important points. It is essential for students to do more than just listen. They must be fully engaged in reading, writing, discussing and problem solving.
  • Students must have some control over learning processes. Typically, educators make all the learning decisions for students and have the power and authority on the content, pace, calendar, and learning method. Dr. Weimer poses the question: What is really left for the students to decide? Dr. Weimer posits that offering students a choice of conditions under which they learn will increase students’ feelings of empowerment.

As students are grounded in their individual learning experiences, educators play the crucial role of fostering and facilitating students’ learning. Learner-centered teaching takes courage: many students would rather you tell them what they need to know, and may be reluctant to engage in this practice. However, students who acquire these learning skills improve their critical thinking, analysis, synthesis of course concepts, and are more able to evaluate their own learning.

Dr. Maryellen Weimer has a loyal following of educators from law, medicine and business programs. More than 15,000 educators subscribe to her newsletter and read her weekly weblog The Teaching Professor Blog. If you are curious about incorporating learner-centered policies, practices, techniques and approaches to your classroom, check out Dr. Weimer’s teaching resources and strategies at

Amanda Reilly is the Program Associate for HLS Case Studies.


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New Vice Dean to Develop Experiential Learning at HLS

Daniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law

Daniel Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law

Dan Nagin, Clinical Professor of Law and director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center, will serve as Harvard Law School’s first Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Programs. In this position, Nagin will work to build the school’s experiential offerings and foster new opportunities for hands-on learning.

Nagin, who joined HLS in 2012, founded the Legal Services Center’s Veterans Legal Clinic. He brings experience in legal advocacy and social service for homeless HIV/AIDS patients living in New York, and previously taught at the University of Virginia and Washington University in St. Louis.

In announcing his appointment, HLS Dean Martha Minow said, “With national ongoing discussions about how legal education can best prepare students for professional careers and some changes made recently by the ABA with regard to educational requirements in this area, this is a time of opportunity and responsibility, and I am confident Dan will execute his new role with the grace, insight, and wisdom for which he is already known.” Nagin will build on proposals from Minow’s Ad Hoc Committee on Experiential Learning.

HLS recently increased its requirement for student pro bono service from 40 to 50 hours. To fulfill this experience quota, students may participate in student practice organizations, spring break pro bono trips, clinics, government or NGO work, or student-initiated projects.

The Problem Solving Workshop, a case-based simulation course on lawyering for 1Ls, is one of HLS’s signature classroom experiential initiatives. The Negotiation Workshop also makes use of experiential role plays. Materials for these courses can be found on the HLS Case Studies website.

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Top Challenges for Case Study Programs

What gets in the way of case study adoption? The Case Studies Affinity Group, a consortium of Harvard-affiliated case programs, took up this question during its quarterly meeting on May 12. The Affinity Group welcomed as panelists Carolyn Wood, Assistant Academic Dean & Director of SLATE and the Case Program, Harvard Kennedy School; Lisa Rohrer, Executive Director of the Case Development Initiative at Harvard Law School; and Susan Madden, Associate Director, Case-Based Teaching and Learning Center, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Together, the panelists identified key challenges facing case study programs at Harvard and beyond:

  • Poor visibility. A searchable index of all available case materials is a fundamental resource, but surprisingly challenging to achieve when instructors write case studies for their own courses. This index must be featured prominently in faculty onboarding or resource pages; ideally, faculty would receive formal pedagogical training or advising on available curricular resources. According to Wood, the Kennedy School of Government circulates an e-update three times per year to 80+ HKS faculty to highlight new cases and share high-level statistics and FAQs on case teaching and case usage. HKS also reaches out to instructors directly, suggesting a few new case studies specifically tailored to their course(s).
  • Few role models and mentors. The prevalence of poorly-facilitated case discussions can undermine support for case method teaching, but a skilled, energizing case teacher can transform student learning and inspire fellow faculty. Case study programs need respected opinion leaders on the faculty to act as champions; if such role models also direct or supervise case programs, the programs themselves can develop from this galvanizing leadership.
  • Incentive structure. Faculty members are typically promoted based primarily on research and scholarship, while teaching is thought to be weighted less. We need career incentives for faculty to stay on the cutting edge of pedagogy. In the interim, we can make the case development effort worthwhile for faculty by dovetailing case topics with faculty research interests, so that there is a greater return on investment for case research.
  • Lack of testing environments. Instructors need spaces to test new teaching styles outside of the classroom. Workshops where instructors test-teach short cases and see peer approaches would increase success, confidence, and ease for new case teachers.
  • The challenge of case teaching. Case teaching has been the dominant means of instruction in business schools across the globe for decades.  It can seem intimidating for instructors in fields outside of business to adopt case method teaching when they lack a stock of tested cases in their field, robust training, and the pervasive culture of case teaching that is so prevalent in business schools. Public policy faculty often practice case teaching in a more heterogeneous manner than their business school colleagues. Wood muses, “Even the most skilled case teachers at HKS are often reluctant to call themselves case teachers, perhaps because they’re uncertain they meet the HBS definition of a true ‘case teacher.’ But in our context, there’s room for variation in how case method teaching is practiced so long as it’s done in a manner that advances active learning.  It’s all about using authentic problems to push students to practice higher-order thinking skills (analysis, decision-making, advocacy) in a group context in class.”  Susan Madden notes that Emory University addresses this barrierby hosting a global health case study competition, encouraging multidisciplinary teams.
  • Benefits of traditional materials. According to Wood, some HKS faculty report that students read less carefully in the digital age; it is hard for students to skim case studies and still contribute deeply to the discussion. Furthermore, in legal education casebooks and lectures provide a broad abundance of information; it is hard for instructors to cut a lot of material and replace it with one deep scenario. However, instructors have successfully paired traditional legal cases with case studies, so that students may extrapolate to other scenarios. To achieve breadth with a single case study, instructors can mine the text for lessons comparable to those in legal casebooks, and lead students to articulate enduring, transferable takeaways.

Nonetheless, case study adoption should be slow. Wood explains that it is better to have a small number of instructors who teach cases well than many who teach ineffectively. Relationships between case writers and faculty take time to build; quality cases take time to research and write. With a foundation of quality, case study programs can address their challenges without undercutting the main objective: more engaged, thoughtful teaching and learning.

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New Mega-Hit Case Study on Tech Ethics

New FREE Product: Algorithmic Allegories (Version 1.0)

In June 2014, people got emotional about Facebook.

That month, Facebook published the results of its “emotional contagion” study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In conjunction with researchers at Cornell, Facebook experimentally altered the algorithm that populates the News Feed, the primary activity and content list on Facebook. The goal? To explore if emotions can spread through Facebook. In the experiment, the algorithms for a random subset of users were manipulated to display either proportionately more negative emotional content or proportionately more emotional content; a control group saw content according to the current algorithm. The study found that the emotional nature of News Feed content does influence users’ moods, as indicated by their subsequent posts.

This was news to Facebook users, none of whom had volunteered for, opted into, or known about the study. Some found the invisible consequences of the algorithm chilling. Privacy activist Lauren Weinstein said, “I wonder if anyone killed anyone with their emotional manipulation stunt.” This impassioned response is the launching point of a new, free Advanced Problem Solving Workshop case, “Algorithmic Allegories (version 1.0),” spearheaded by HLS Professor Jonathan Zittrain.

Algorithmic Allegories chronicles the Facebook study controversy and the legal issues it introduced, as well as offering six related hypotheticals to probe the moral, legal, and technical implications of algorithms in our lives. By considering the use of algorithms in print media, charity, business, and other situations, participants form nuanced ethical positions on the Facebook Emotional Contagion study. Participants then engage in a class-wide debate about the study. Participants learn to assess the feasibility of implementing policy in a rapidly changing, technology-powered landscape; appreciate the responsibilities of those who use algorithms; write policy briefs; and advise clients.

Though the infamous experiment was conducted on a small fraction of users, Facebook data scientist Dan Farrell told Radiolab that “any given person is probably currentlty involved in ten different experiments” on Facebook alone. The pervasive use of algorithms begs for human consideration.

Sure enough, more than 100 customers have downloaded Algorithmic Allegories in its first month. See what the buzz is all about by downloading the case for free.

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Can We Have Justice in an Imperfect World? DSK Case Study Shows Fractured Relationship between Justice and Justice System

Professor Jeannie Suk

Professor Jeannie Suk

Product: “Cyrus Vance and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Dilemmas in a High-Profile Prosecution”

HLS Professor Jeannie Suk repurposed a discussion-based case study, “Cyrus Vance and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Dilemmas in a High-Profile Prosecution,” to explore the disconnect between justice and the justice system in a foundational 1L course. In her two sections of Criminal Law, Suk paired the case study with analysis of Inmates of Attica Correctional Facility v Rockefeller, 477 F.2d 375 (1973), a seminal case that affirmed discretion in charging and prosecuting.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Cyrus Vance

Cyrus Vance

Originally written by Professor Philip Heymann, the “DSK” case study chronicles the allegations of rape against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, director of the International Monetary Fund and presidential hopeful in France, during a hotel stay in New York City. The allegations pitted the credibility of a black immigrant maid against that of a well-off, famous white man; Manhattan’s new district attorney, Cyrus Vance, had to decide whether to allow Strauss-Kahn out on bail and, later, whether to drop charges when the evidence base unraveled. On the line was not only Strauss-Kahn’s image, but Vance’s too.

Professor Heymann originally used the case in an elective on Decision-Making and Leadership in the Public Sector. His teaching plan explored the permissible factors that go into charging decisions, the implications of prosecutorial discretion particular to the DSK case, and strategies for investigating hypotheses and gathering evidence.

But for Suk’s 1Ls, it was important to explore the relationship between discretion and justice. She asked:

  • What is discretion? Why don’t legal rules determine criminal liability and punishment?
  • Is discretion fair to defendants? To victims? To society?
  • Is it fair to take the case to trial if a prosecutor believes beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty, but knows a jury is unlikely to convict or the admissible evidence is unconvincing?
  • If the prosecutor conducts himself properly, is the outcome automatically just?
  • Under the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, are prosecutors better suited as trustees of justice or delegates of the people? How much should public pressures influence prosecutorial discretion?

Together, the class parsed out available standards for charging someone with a crime: probable cause, beyond a reasonable doubt, and the grey areas in between. Through Socratic questioning, Suk elicited from students the notion that probable cause does not signify a probable conviction, which is determined by the strength of the admissible evidence.

From many angles, Suk showed how written law and established procedure do not necessarily bring justice. For instance, she asked the class to consider whether an acquittal for a rapist, due to insufficient evidence or lingering doubt in the jury, would send a message of justice. Suk posed another example, the mandatory arrest and prosecution of domestic violence suspects, as a procedural extreme: does removing human intervention actually bring more justice? Furthermore, Suk noted that it is unconstitutional to consider race in prosecutorial decisions, but prosecutors do commonly think of representing, empowering, or bringing justice to specific populations. The perception of fairness, whether in charging or trial, can engender faith in the justice system.

To conclude, Suk explained how prosecutors were the lynchpins of the criminal justice system. Suk said, “There are legal incentives to cast many behaviors as criminal with big punishments. It’s a one-way ratchet up.” Overcriminalization, she argued, is premised on prosecutorial discretion: the system presupposes that not all offenses will be pursued, and thus prosecutors should be able to tailor charges and offenses to the individual defendant. Should prosecution be monitored by an independent institution? Should we allow for private prosecutions, as other countries do? These are questions that these 1Ls will carry with them throughout their legal careers.

“Cyrus Vance and Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Dilemmas in a High-Profile Prosecution” (A), (B), and (C) are available through the Case Studies website. Educators and staff at non-profit institutions may register to download review copies free of charge.

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