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Do My Work, Please

posted by Bob Lawless

In the spring, I am supposed to teach a class called Statutory Interpretation: Consumer Protection Law. It is a class for first-year law students about issues connected to legislation, broadly construed. My task is not only to teach them how to use statutes but also broader issues related to the role statutory law plays in the United States. Most law-schools teach these ideas under a generically-titled elective course called "Legislation," but here at Illinois the class is taught within the context of a particular subject matter. Hence, I am using consumer protection laws as my subject matter.

What statutes, cases, disputes, policy issues, and the like would Credit Slips readers suggest I use? My task is to pick things that illustrate broad principles rather than particular points of consumer law.

Comments

Sounds like a fantastic course--I envy you!

I have always though the development of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, particularly the garnishment limitations and the basics of the FDCPA, illustrated most of the points of a "Legislation" course in a way that students could readily understand and enjoy: why was the common law inadequate and why did legislation arise as a (potentially) more effective response (and, indeed, how does the Civil Law statutory approach to regulating these issues differ), how do difficult political compromises reveal themselves in a statute in ways that might well not have occurred in case law (and what does the money-driven lobbying process that leads to such a law look like), what about the interplay between state statutes and federal statutes (I seem to recall that Vern Countryman had a great piece in a trade journal in about 1967 explaining the hodge-podge of state garnishment limitations right before adoption of the CCPA), what are the consequences of having statutes that purport to offer protection but don't, does having a statute mean that judges have nothing left to do but apply "plain" language and abandon their own sense of justice, etc. Oddly enough, I have found discussion of the garnishment limitations most engaging for the students (especially given the really rotten case law interpreting these few sections, especially a 2005 opinion from the 5th Cir.), and the FDCPA in particular offers abundant opportunities for interpretation exercises (definitions, cross-references, etc.), not to mention fun policy discussions. Given the many available choices, this is a tough one, but for simplicity, richness of illustration, and accessibility for 1Ls, I would choose the CCPA garnishment limitations and the FDCPA. Enjoy the course!

Bob, two people who do this brilliantly (in different ways) are (a) David Lander in St. Louis; and (b) Emma Jordan at Georgetown. Emma has a book out from Foundation. David I am sure will cheerfully furnish you with a syllabus that will keep you going until Christmas.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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