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Practice-Based Teaching

Submitted by Charlotte Alexander on Mon, 11-09-2009
Long title
"How Can We Give Up Our Child?" A Practice-Based Approach to Teaching Legal Ethics
Cunningham, Clark D.
Author(s)' contact information

The Law Teacher: The International Journal of Legal Education
Issue number
First page number
United States
When University of Michigan law professor Suellyn Scarnecchia met with the adoptive parents of Baby Jessica, she told them the chances of winning the custody struggle with Jessica's biological parents were "extremely low." Against all odds, Scarnecchia actually won the case on the merits at the trial level, only to lose on appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court on jurisdictional grounds. The Baby Jessica case presents extraordinarily rich materials for teaching because there was a TV documentary that includes interviews with the lawyers and parties as well actual footage of the trial in addition to an eloquent autobiographical account by one of the clients, and an excellent magazine article. As powerful as these resources were in the classroom, the most valuable item though was an interview with Scarnecchia recorded after she was a guest speaker at my class in which she reflected with great candor about the challenging ethical and professional issues with which she had struggled.
To visit the course home page where the Baby Jessica case is taught go to:
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Teaching Methods