The End of Civility

The civil procedure final was going to be three questions: one about personal jurisdiction, another about subject matter jurisdiction, and a third about the Erie doctrine.  We knew this.  The professor had told us.  Every civil procedure exam he gave was set up this way.  Three questions, three major topics: one question per major topic.

But, like they say, the trick was in the details.  Each question would have at least two subparts.  In the first subpart, the majority of the points would be tied to the major topic of the question.  But there were other subparts, minority subparts for lack of a better term.  These were over the ancillary topics we had covered.  Collateral attacks.  Rule 12 motion sequences.  The significance of dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction versus subject matter jurisdiction.  Preclusion.  All sorts of stuff about class actions. 

Last night, the night before the exam, I was reviewing old exams.  These minority subparts were driving me a bit nuts.  There’d be one saying something like, Frank filed a Rule 14(b)(1)(iii) motion, which the court had denied.  Considering how this might impact his chances of renewing the claim in a different venue, or precluding additional counter claims, what should Frank do?  My first thought was, “I don’t know, go eat a sandwich?”  Seriously, I couldn’t figure out what the question was answering.  I don’t think the challenge of an exam should be in decoding the questions so that they may be answered.  I think the challenge should be in answering the actual questions.  So I was worried that I’d get to the minority subparts of the three questions and have no idea what was going on.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.  I even figured out what one of them was really asking, instead of what it initially looked to be asking (or at least I thought I did, time will tell).

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