Post written by Hether Macfarlane


The most recent article from Ian Gallacher, winner of the 2018 Thomas Blackwell Award, is called My Grandmother Was Mrs. Palsgraf (find it on SSRN). Just as Ian has found a connection between his grandmother and an iconic name from our 1L experience, I propose a connection between Ian’s article and a podcast from RadioLab at WNYC.

Ian’s article focuses on what he sees as the “dehumanization of the 1L experience” and is a plea, among other things, to help students view the plaintiffs and defendants in the cases they read for class as “deserving of our compassion, our empathy, and our respect.” The podcast I recommend, “More Perfect,” presents famous cases in a way that the creators think of as “human, surprising, cinematic.” Most of the episodes consider an important case decided by the Supreme Court by looking at the people involved, not just at the legal issues.  Listening to the podcast, I learned more about the Dred Scott case itself, but also learned about a gathering of Dred Scott’s descendants and the descendants of Justice Taney, who wrote the infamous opinion. I have met the plaintiffs in Craig v. Boren, the case that established the intermediate scrutiny standard, and learned more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s connection to that case. I have learned about the background to District of Columbia v. Heller and the development of Second Amendment jurisprudence. And that is just part of the second season.

To get back to the connection, like Ian, I always try to get my students to think about the people in the cases we use in my LRW classes and to think about the “clients” they write to and for. I will start recommending More Perfect to them as a way to encourage them to think about the plaintiffs and defendants in the cases they read in my classes and their other classes. Perhaps listening to these podcasts will help my 2Ls who are taking constitutional law understand the various levels of scrutiny in First Amendment cases, a concept that seems to be eluding some of them. More importantly, perhaps the students will begin to think of their future careers as involving clients and opposing parties “deserving of our compassion, our empathy, and our respect.” And, at the least, they will find a way to learn about the law that is itself both informative and entertaining.

If you have not discovered this podcast, I recommend it to you as both fascinating and often enlightening.

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My new podcast has just posted on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog on telling a compelling story. In this In Practice podcast, I discuss how telling a compelling story can help an advocate clarify points and simplify complex topics. To be able to tell these stories, an advocate’s skills are greatly enhanced by a solid grasp of how to effectively use imagery, simile, and metaphor; the podcast explains further and provides examples. I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Mary-Beth Moylan recently sat down with Judge Allison Claire, a United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California to discuss her advice to attorneys practicing in her courtroom and chambers, and in the Eastern District more generally. You can listen to this interview on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog: Advocacy In Practice with Judge Allison Claire.

This is the first in a series of judicial interviews with GLS Director and Assoc. Dean for Experiential Learning Mary-Beth Moylan, so look forward to more local judicial insight to follow.

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I hope you will check out my first podcast posted today on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog. In this In Practice podcast on Credibility and Ethos in Persuasion, I talk about ways advocates can bolster the ethos of their arguments, that is, strengthen their credibility with the audience and the judge, as well as some pitfalls to avoid that can undermine an advocate’s credibility.

Also, look for more GLS podcasts in the future!