Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ready, set, read...

Tort II (Peltz-Steele 2018)
Essays on Engel

This semester I asked you to read Professor David Engel’s The Myth of the Litigious Society (2016).  This is an assignment to write a reflection essay on the Engel reading.

In the first week of our class in August 2017, I reminded you that much of the world outside the United States—and a good bit inside, too—views American society as dominated by an out-of-control civil litigation system: runaway lawsuits in which plaintiffs win obscenely large verdicts; potential defendants, including all of us, living in terror of being sued; and tort lawyers on both sides of the courtroom stuffing their pockets with cash.  Certainly many a tort reformer would have us believe that perception of the American system.  At the same time, you have well witnessed in our studies that the American system leaves much to be desired, and tort reform proposals, which come in all shapes and sizes, often have merit.

Engel sought to examine the literature around American tort law critically and to get to truth; “to have,” as he put it, “a more responsible discussion about injuries and the law.”  Your assignment is to contribute to that discussion.

Consider that we have seen and studied the many possible functions of tort system, from compensating injured persons to leveling social inequalities.  In that broad context, write a reflection essay in which you:

  1. reiterate and reflect upon something you learned from Engel’s book; be specific about what you are reiterating from the book and give a reference sufficient that others can find it (at least partial quote; page numbers in print edition, or some guidance if you are reading an electronic book);
  2. explain how this new information influenced your thinking about the civil dispute resolution system in the United States; be sure to explain what your conception was before you read Engel and what it became after; and
  3. imagine and explain a way in which you would reform the U.S. tort system, if you were able to wave a magic wand; while you are empowered with magic in your imaginings, comment also on the feasibility of your approach and why it might or might not work in the United States.

Some guidelines:

  •          You may agree with Engel, and you may disagree; you should approach the text critically, as he does his sources.
  •          You may reference outside sources, but additional research is not required.  If you do reference outside sources, please provide a Bluebook citation to conventional sources or a URL to link to online sources.  You may use art, but only of your creation or with permission (such as Creative Commons with proper attribution).
  •          Be creative.  This is not a constrained IRAC exercise, but an open-ended opportunity for you to engage with law and society at the big-picture level.  You should feel welcome to inform your reflection with your own knowledge and experience.  Think more college application essay, less high school term paper—though there’s nothing wrong with a good high school term paper.
  •          There is no right or wrong format.  But if you’re someone who just freaks out without sample guidance for a writing assignment, here’s a thorough rundown from a college English teacher.  Here’s a good overview in a legal-academic context.

And some mechanics: 

  •          Your work product will be posted on a public blog, “1L Torts,” a subsidiary of The Savory Tort.  You grant me unqualified license to reproduce your work on this platform, but you otherwise retain all intellectual property rights in your work.
  •          Put your name at the top of your work, along with a suggested headline, which may be nominative, active, or whatever you like.  You may use your real name or a pseudonym for your public posting; if you wish to use a pseudonym, please add it in your document in addition to your real name, which will be removed before posting.  If you wish for your real name to link to a personal home page, social media site, or email address, provide the link.
  •          You must write at least 600 words and no more than 3,000 words.  Ideally aim for 1,000 to 1,600 words.  This suggestion is to optimize readability in a blog format.  Be cautioned that you might find it difficult to achieve the three assignment expectations with fewer than 1,000 words.
  •          Submit your work product in Word “doc” or “docx” through the TWEN Assignment Dropbox.  Your submission will be graded holistically with reference to the three expectations set out above.  Technical accuracy (e.g., grammar, spelling, punctuation) may affect your grade.
  •          Deadline is Monday, April 2, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.  Early submission is most welcome.

If you have any questions, just ask, preferably on our TWEN Discussion Forum in case someone else has the same question.