Teaching with Bad Court Opinions

Corey Yung

Corey Rayburn Yung is an Associate Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law. His scholarship primarily focuses on sexual violence, substantive criminal law, and judicial decision-making. Yung’s academic writings have been cited by state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. Before Yung began his professorial career, he served as an associate for Shearman & Sterling in New York and clerked for the Honorable Michael J. Melloy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

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3 Responses

  1. Michael Risch says:

    When you teach in IP and internet law, this is an occupational hazard. Every casebook includes key cases that professors believe the courts got totally wrong. It may be different cases for each professor, mind you, but there are plenty.

    In contracts, after every case, I asked whether the trial judge that just got reversed had skipped contracts in law school. Most of the time, the answer was no, that there was a sea change, or a different framing of facts, or whatever. But every once in a while, the trial court got it wrong – and we discuss those cases as well.

  2. Howard Wasserman says:

    Isn’t this almost always a part of teaching appellate opinions that include dissents–*someone* got it wrong?

  3. Corey Yung says:

    Hi Howard,

    When I teach Criminal Procedure or Federal Courts, I definitely take issue with the statements and findings of several Justices and judges as I expect every professor does. Here, I was trying to focus on something more fundamental. In Collins, I think the court completely misunderstands the voluntary act requirement. In other words, they are misapplying a doctrine that 1L’s learn in the 2nd or 3rd week of Criminal Law. And the court’s mistake is similar to the type I have seen on exams and in class discussions. When I taught Collins, it wasn’t meant to articulate one view of the law – it was just indicative of a mistaken understanding. I’m not sure how common it is to use cases like that (mistaken outliers) as teaching tools. It might be a product of Criminal Law in particular where most of the cases taught are chosen as good illustrations and not as embodying a general rule of law. FWIW, students didn’t make the same error as the Collins court on their exam which had a tricky voluntariness issue.