This year the University of Arkansas School of Law is taking part in the Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program. As explained on the U/A Law website, the program is an immersive four-week summer program for students entering their sophomore or junior year in fall 2012. The program focuses on the inclusion of the following groups:

  • students from colleges or universities with historical or significant populations of African American, Asian American, Latino and American Indian students;
  • who are the first generation in their family to attend college;
  • who experience significant financial challenges; and
  • student populations which are historically underrepresented in law school. The program is sponsored by the LSAC PLUS Program. Preference is given to students who are registrants.

Today, I am in the middle of teaching a three-day course entitled “Legal Systems and Process.” The course focuses on current events and requires the students to critically analyze reading assignments from judicial opinions, media reports, codes, and constitutions. It also stresses critical reading and oral communication skills. Given the course description, I thought it would be fun to focus on two recently decided U.S. Supreme Court cases that  engendered a great deal of polular press coverage.

The cases, FCC v. Fox Television Stations  and U.S. v. Alvarez involve “fleeting expletives” and “stolen valor.” Both cases raise First Amendment issues, though the Court dodged that issue in FCC v. Fox, and instead focused on due process. The Fox case gave the students an opportunity to study the application of 18 USC § 1464  a statute on Broadcasting Obscenity, and §47 USC 326 on censorship  as well as the FCC  regulation implementing the statute. We also looked one of the FCC opinions, Complaints Against Various Broadcast Licensees Regarding Their Airing of the “Golden Globe Awards” Program, which was being challenged in the Supreme Court case.  To set the stage, we watched a couple of short, funny clips on the case and the issues involved. It was a great class. The students were prepared, focused and engaged in a spirited discussion.

Similarly, before the Alvarez case we looked at a couple of short clips on the topic of “stolen valor,” and will finish the class tomorrow with a discussion of the statute, 18 USC § 704, and the Court’s holding, as well as the anticipated legislative response.  It’s been a joy for me to interact with the PLUS class to and meet young people I know can, and I hope will, go on to become future colleagues and members of the bar.