Oregon State Bar Bulletin — MAY 2006



On May 13, a group of six University of Oregon law students will depart Eugene, Oregon for Harbin, China, where they will live for two months on the campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) School of Law. The students have been invited by the institute to teach legal English to Chinese law students, perform legal research with faculty, and in return, receive Chinese language instruction from their peers and lectures on the Chinese legal system from faculty.

The participants include second-year and first-year law students from around the United States. Their professional work experience includes: real estate, sales, watershed projects, judicial and law firm clerkships, a Nike internship and two years of teaching English in Japan. Only two students have previously been to China.

This two-month teaching/study/ research immersion program was organized by Eugene lawyer Stephen Barnes, who recently returned from one year at HIT, where he taught Overview of American Law, Contracts, and International Law. “While preparing for this year’s two- month summer term, I thought, ‘Why not see if HIT would be interested in inviting over some American law students?’” Barnes explains that this is neither a semester abroad experience nor a Peace Corps-like project, but rather a one-of- a-kind collaboration of academic efforts among Chinese faculty, students, jurists and American law students. Center stage, Barnes says, is grassroots citizen-to-citizen diplomacy, with the opportunity for the exchange to be reciprocated — and duplicated.

Harbin is the 15th largest city in China with a population of 8 million, roughly the size of Chicago. It is located 800 miles northeast of Beijing and only 200 miles south of the Russian border in an area the West refers to as “Manchuria.”

In law school, exercise simulations are designed to give students experience questioning witnesses before handling real cases. Usually, a student “witness” is asked to memorize a sheet of facts during the exercise, but this leads to a different situation than the one a student will face when questioning an actual witness. A University of Missouri-Columbia professor has now devised an exercise in which student witnesses take the stand as a character nearly everyone is already familiar with: Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.”

In the “Wizard” exercise, students are told they will participate in a witness examination exercise in the next class. One student is given the secret assignment of viewing “The Wizard of Oz.” During the next class, students to take turns on the stand as Dorothy, relying on their own memories from when they last viewed the movie.

The end result, according to Stephen Easton, professor in the MU School of Law: “The Dorothys will testify to all sorts of ‘facts’ that are inconsistent with the facts outlined in the movie.”
After several Dorothys have taken the stand, a discussion about witness memory is held. A consensus quickly emerges that everything would proceed smoothly if Dorothy had observed the events recently, instead of years ago. Then the student who recently watched the movie takes to the stand. The lesson is aimed at helping students realize that even a witness with a strong recollection will present problems on direct examination if the attorney has not spent time preparing the witness for direct examination testimony.

The exercise will be published in NYU’s Clinical Law Review.

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Getting In On The Act

The English judge who presided at the copyright infringement trial involving the mega-bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, has admitted that has put a his own code of his into the ruling.

Ever since the ruling on April 7 in favor of the book’s author, Dan Brown, lawyers began to notice odd italicizations in the decision by Judge Peter Smith. Almost immediately, would-be code-breakers got to work on deciphering Smith’s code. According to news reports, italics are placed in strange spots. For example, the first is found in the first paragraph of the 360-paragraph document (the letter “s” in the word “claimants” is oddly bolded and italicized). In the next paragraph, “claimant” is spelled with an italicized “m,” and so on. The italicized letters in the first seven paragraphs spell out “Smithy code,” playing on the judge’s name.

The judge said he “probably” would confirm the code to the person who breaks it, but he’s not saying much more than that. “I can’t discuss the judgment,” Smith told the Associated Press. “But I don’t see why a judgment should not be a matter of fun.”

The case is Baigent and Leigh v. Random House, (2006) EWHC 719 (Ch).