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February 08, 2005

Reading Hart and Wechsler's

If you're in law school and you take a course with a name like “Federal Courts” or “Federal Jurisdiction,” chances are probably 100% you'll either use or hear a lot of references to a text that was originally written by Henry Hart and Herbert Wechsler and first published in 1953 (at least that's the earliest publication date listed in my 5th edition). Many people find this book maddening, because it asks as many questions as it answers. However, after reading several hundred pages, I've learned a trick: If you read most of the questions as statements instead of questions, then it's really much more clear. For example, H&W will often write something like: “Haven't courts recognized a power to enforce executive compliance with statutory duties since Marbury v. Madison?” That looks like a question, but it's not. What that really says is: “Courts have recognized a power to enforce executive compliance with statutory duties since Marbury v. Madison! (Duh.)” Do you think most of the questions are really statements? Would you be likely to enjoy reading a book written like this? Is writing in questions a sign of intelligence or a good way to teach, or is it just really, really asinine?

Posted February 8, 2005 07:11 AM | 2L law school meta-blogging

Hee! Our property book annoys us for kind of the same reason, except it doesn't give statements in question form, it does crap like this:

"Does reflection on the voidable-title and entrusting exceptions contained in UCC 2-403 suggest a way to resolve the conflict? See blah blah blah, 59 B.U. L. Rev. 811."

So...let's all go read some law review article, then. Because we have time to do that kind of thing. Let's not have you give us UCC 2-403 or anything. Tools.

Posted by: Mary at February 8, 2005 08:30 AM

I have the H&W too...I got the Chemerinsky on (I think) and it is FAB-YOO-LESS! I love it.

Posted by: energy spatula at February 8, 2005 09:52 AM

asinine. it's like question talkers or, worse, third-person self-referrers. "Is Kristine going to have Thai for lunch? Won't Thai upset her stomach? Does Kristine care?" ARgh.

Posted by: kristine at February 8, 2005 09:58 AM

I also vote for asinine.

Posted by: Jennifer at February 8, 2005 10:31 AM

In my experience, you don't ask so many leading questions looking for a "yes" answer unless you're convinced that your audience is moronic. Normally, for the competent teacher of adults, the function of that kind of questioning (at least on such a general level, as opposed to on some small bit of detail to help along an answer already in progress) is to suggest that the answer *appears* to be obvious, yet it is not. Thus, I spend half my time reading that damn casebook wrestling with my own brain.

Posted by: Sarah at February 8, 2005 02:36 PM

god, i hate those questions. and i agree with kristine - when people refer to themselves in the third person, it sucks, even if it's not in questions.

Posted by: monica at February 9, 2005 07:13 AM

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