Innovative “Uncasebook” Published

Innovators Deborah Jones Merritt and Ric Simmons of Moritz College of Law, the Ohio State University, published an “uncasebook” for the basic evidence course taught to upperlevel classes.  Professor Jones comments on the reasons for approaching the publication in this way.

“The case method is an inefficient–even unproductive–pedagogy in many upperlevel cases. But alternative materials are hard to find. To meet this need in one area, Ric Simmons and I created an “uncasebook” for the basic evidence course. West has published the book as “Learning Evidence: From the Federal Rules to the Courtroom.” Ironically, this “uncasebook” is part of the American Casebook Series! The book uses text, rule analysis, and lots of examples to teach the Federal Rules of Evidence. We base the examples on cases, but describe the facts and outcomes ourselves rather than through appellate opinions. This helps students focus on the legal principles. It also provides constant models of concise legal writing. When we published the book last year, some professors asked: “What will I do in class if the legal principles are so clear in the book?” But as we (and hopefully they) have discovered, there is still lots to do in class. I often review basic principles with a few opening hypotheticals, then move on to new problems that require more complex application of the rules. With this book, we have much more time to discuss the issues that lawyers are litigating today–like application of the evidence rules to electronic media. The uncasebook also gives me time to conduct simulations and demonstrations in class, or to discuss the policies that underlie the rules. Since the students come to class with a basic knowledge of the rules they are more interested in discussing policy implications. Response to the book has been overwhelmingly favorable–from both students and faculty who have adopted it. I have also seen improvement in class participation and the quality of exam answers. The “uncasebook” approach really makes sense in upperlevel courses: I encourage other professors to consider developing materials for other subjects. If you have questions, please feel free to visit the book’s website and/or contact me.”

For more information: http://www.merrittevidence.com/ or email Deborah Merritt at merritt.52@osu.edu

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