This semester, we will be studying basic principles of criminal law. This course is designed to expose you to the basic policies behind criminalization and sentencing, the fundamental requirements of our system of criminal justice, the elements of just punishment, and the skills for interpreting criminal statutes. While you will learn the elements of some crimes, in particular rape and homicide, that is not the primary aim of the course. The primary goal is to sensitize you to the big picture issues, introduce you to the sources and forms of criminal law, give you the basic interpretive skills lawyers need, and provide you opportunities to practice those skills to achieve competence. During the semester we will cover in depth several key concepts and just touch on others, but coverage is not my goal. It is my belief that if you have a firm grounding in the basics, you can handle any problem that comes along. If you have the ability to identify the issues, the knowledge of where to look for answers, and the interpretive skills to deal effectively with what you find, you have what you need to succeed, especially in these dynamic, changing times. This course is designed to give you those basic skills.
We will utilize a variety of formats in our learning experience together. We will read cases, manipulate statutes and do lots of problem-solving. Each of the formats used is designed to insure that, by the end of the semester, you have the combination of exposure, knowledge and skill that are the goals of the course, and each format is chosen because, after more than twenty years of teaching and experimentation, I have determined that it works best to impart that particular information and skill. Also, using a variety of approaches provides opportunities for all kinds of learners to interact positively with the material. While aspects of the
course are still experimental, the core components have been developed and honed over a long period of time.
This is a difficult course. There are many levels of complexity, lots of interrelationships among concepts, and multiple systems of criminal law to learn. There are times you will be confused, perhaps even frustrated. But there are many positive ways to deal with those feelings. The course provides opportunities for enrichment activities and problem-solving practice, including CALI exercises, interactive discussion forums through the course web site and periodic small group problem-solving sessions. My goal is to have every student at at least a minimum level of competence by the end of the semester and to have those with the desire to be there at a high level of performance. You are all capable of achieving at least basic competence, but it takes hard, persistent work. My commitment to you is that, if you put in that work, I will work with you to help you perform at the level to which you aspire. My hope is that you will make the commitment to excel and to work with me to achieve a high level of performance. Nothing would make me happier than to have to tell the Dean I can't meet the recommended grade curve because my students, as a group, are performing at too high a level. Help me have that conversation!
If, during the course of the semester, you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me publicly through the course discussion forum or privately by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (816-235-2372) or in person. My office is 1-205 (in the Administrative Suite on the main level) and, if my door is open, feel free to come in and chat. If you want a more formal meeting, you can set up an appointment via e-mail.
I look forward to working with you throughout the semester as we explore criminal law together.