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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wall Street Journal Law Blog Issue-Spots Potential Federal Courts Exam Question

When I was in law school, one of my hobbies was attempting to predict the content of law school exams. I've been fairly successful in predicting exam questions, and I go into more detail here on how students may go about predicting the content of exams.

Here, I would like to offer a specific prediction about next year's exams: I think that there is a good chance that federal courts classes offered during the upcoming fall semester may include House Speaker John Boehner's plan to sue President Obama as a fact pattern. Boehner has stated that President Obama's use of executive orders is unconstitutional and plans to sue, claiming that the President has "not faithfully executed the law."

Going into the potential causes of action Boehner may claim and addressing the merits of the lawsuit is something I don't have the time to do in this post. But I would direct those interested in learning more to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog's informative post on the lawsuit, which concisely outlines many of the potential avenues the lawsuit may take and the obstacles it may face.

Students in particular may want to look over the Journal's post, since its coverage of the various facets of the case provides a good outline for a possible issue-spotting answer to an exam question that asks students to discuss the merits of the lawsuit.

I think that this issue is likely to come up on fall federal courts exams because it is a rare example of media coverage of a lawsuit that primarily revolves around federal courts questions. While issues of standing and political questions are often too technical for mainstream media coverage, this case is being aggressively publicized (probably for political purposes), and the high profile nature of the parties involved has gotten the attention of many national news outlets. There is a possibility that this issue could be tested in the spring, but that may depend on whether this lawsuit continues to attract coverage.

Of course, if this issue continues to draw media attention, it might become so well-known that it would not be a practical item to include on the exam. If most students have heard about the lawsuit and read ongoing, in-depth media coverage, this could end up leading to uniformly thorough answers. As a caveat to this caveat: some media outlets may cover this issue more than others, and continuing coverage by select networks (especially those that are not frequented by most law students or professors) shouldn't count too much against the probability of this issue being tested.

While predicting exams is no science, a newsworthy lawsuit in an under-publicized area of law coupled by a nifty blog post that issue-spots the lawsuit is probably worth a moment of a student's attention.

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