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William C. Altreuter
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

At UB Research & Writing is a three semester course taught by non-tenure track faculty who almost
certainly work harder and are better grounded than most  law school faculty, so I have a little bit of a problem with the program. That said, I'm pretty committed to the law school, and to the idea that there is a professional obligation to participate in training young lawyers, so I happily participate as a judge in the second semester moot court. As a rule I am very favorably impressed with the students' preparation and poise, and this year's group was exceptionally good. Each R&W section has a different case to brief and argue, and the one I landed on this year was First Amendment case about a high school student who unfurled a banner depicting a joint smoking President Obama (captioned "Yes We Can-abis") at an event. During argument, thinking myself clever, I asked one of the students if her analysis of the student's right to free speech would be different if, instead of the President the banner had depicted "Mr. Zig Zag", and utterly baffled her.

One of the big issues that I confront in the teaching piece of what I do is that my students' cultural references are different from mine. Although I have daughters who are the ages of many of the students I work with, they are a poor sample for this sort of thing, because they grew up with my meshugenas. Even so, it was unreasonable of me to expect that either my students or my daughters* would have much, if any familiarity with the stoner icons of the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, and I shouldn't have assumed it.  (It is possible that I was trying to demonstrate how groovy I am, what with being down with the latest slang and whatnot.) In any event, the student handled the question with aplomb, ("I'm sorry your Honor, I don't know who that is,") and we moved on. Comes now the news that Willie Nelson is planning on launching his own brand of reefer, and although Toby Keith says to be careful I reckon that as an example, at least, I could do worse than to use Willie the next time I need to frame a hypothetical. Hey, at least I didn't use Cab Callaway

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* In fact, a post hoc poll of my daughters reveled that they are, apparently, innocent of any awareness of Mr. Zig Zag.

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