Making Sausage: What, Why and How to Teach About Legislative Process in a Legislation or Leg-Reg Course

Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 65, No. 96, 2015

Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 330

26 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2015

See all articles by Deborah A. Widiss

Deborah A. Widiss

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Although a rapidly growing number of law schools require students to take a course on legislation, many of these courses teach very little about how laws are actually enacted. This essay, written for a special issue of the Journal of Legal Education, argues that study of the legislative process helps students interpret and apply statutory language.

The essay surveys existing text books and supplemental resources that could be easily integrated into a Leg-Reg or Legislation class to explain modern Congressional procedure. The focus is the multiple distinct paths that bills may take through a legislative body and the written records of this process that lawyers may later consult, rather than the arcane parliamentary procedures that govern Congress. It also describes two experiential learning assignments — an exercise in which students debate and then draft a bill, and a legislative history research assignment — that I use to deepen student learning.

A working knowledge of the legislative process permits students to better deploy and critique arguments based on legislative history or canons of interpretation premised on assumptions about legislative process. Although a few class hours cannot teach students how Congress, or state, or local legislative bodies “really” work, they can provide an effective foundation for the statutory research students will do throughout law school and as practicing lawyers.

Keywords: leg-reg; Legislation & regulation; legislative process; legal education; experiential learning; legislative history; Congressional procedures

Suggested Citation

Widiss, Deborah A., Making Sausage: What, Why and How to Teach About Legislative Process in a Legislation or Leg-Reg Course (2015). Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 65, No. 96, 2015, Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 330, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2685236

Deborah A. Widiss (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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