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Employees who dragged themselves into the office late the morning after the presidential election, bleary-eyed from staring at the television until 3 a.m., might tell you that the ballot count in Florida is distracting them from their work. But at law schools across the country, many professors and students have welcomed the distraction as a real-life example of legal situations that prior to the election existed only in theory. Professor Michael Dorf of Columbia University Law School has found the wrangling to be a perfect model for his Civil Procedures class. “My course has been focusing on the division of judicial authority between state and federal courts,” he explained. “The various filings from the Gore and Bush campaigns serve as wonderful teaching vehicles to demonstrate the intricacies of the law and the relevance of those intricacies to important real-world problems.” Students agree that they are glued to the news on campus. Ben Langille, a first-year law student at Boston College Law School, finds that his classmates “think it’s kind of cool that what we’re learning actually applies — it makes sense when we watch this on the news. It’s timely to be in law school right now, certainly.” At Suffolk University Law School in Boston, first-year Jay Fanciullo says all the monitors in campus buildings have been tuned in to the CNN coverage of the election and court hearings; some professors even cut classes short so students could watch the proceedings. Several schools have hosted conferences dedicated to these post-election issues. Suffolk professors helped to organize a symposium at Faneuil Hall. The University of Connecticut recently sponsored a forum called “Town Meeting: Comments on the Election — Finality, Fairness, and Indecision 2000.” Organizer Dean Jeremy Paul commented that the forum, which attracted both faculty and students, had a different emphasis than most of the current commentary; much of the discussion focused on the role of the media in the election. “A considerable amount of time was expended upon the media coverage creating a greater sense of crisis than actually exists, as well as the candidates’ responses and what style of rhetoric was appropriate or inappropriate,” said Paul. “The sense in the room was that this dispute would be resolved through legal process, not through crisis.” He added that this is not the first time that real-life constitutional law issues have raised interest on campus. “The impeachment issue was only two years ago, remember,” he pointed out. Another UConn professor suggested that any serious consideration of constitutional law issues raised by the election chaos was premature. “Much of the discussion of the constitutional issues raised by the election among faculty and students is in fact close to frivolous,” argued Professor Loftus Becker, given the uncertainty of the court struggle at press time. “The issues are more related to state law and general policy.” Langille says his classes keep coming back to the question of where the fight should go — state or federal court? As he admits, “Of course, nobody knows.” Fanciullo considers the battle an illustration of how the different parties try to manipulate the courts in a round of “forum shopping.” According to Sarah Blowers, a second-year law student at Boston College, everyone in her Constitutional Law class wanted to hear the professor’s opinion on the election. “Two days after the election, we were all still confused because none of the court proceedings had cleared up and [the professor] was taking us through some of the possibilities of what might happen,” Blowers said. “People were asking questions about the Electoral College and wondering how it might affect our whole electoral system if we were to change the College. How would we do it? Through an amendment?” Even if campus conversations are no more clued in than any others across the country, law students seem eager to dissect the topic.

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