Term Paper Assignment


A term project – in the form of two legal case briefs – is required of all students in JOUR/SPCH 3060, Communication Law & Regulation. The assignment has several purposes: One is to give the student an opportunity to read from both primary and secondary sources in the law library and on the Internet, as well as from both federal and state statute books and case law reporters. Another purpose is to provide the student with an opportunity to synthesize material from these sources into a succinct length. A third is to provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate his/her analytical writing ability in journalistic and legal contexts.

Paper #1 (15%) will be a legal case summary and analysis of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in:


Paper #2 (20%) will be a legal case summary and analysis of the court ruling in:

To complete each case brief, students must first read each ruling (the case “syllabus” is NOT part of the court’s ruling) and then write their legal case summary and analysis (see, a sample legal case brief at the end of this assignment) according to the following standards:

I.          TITLE PAGE

The title of Paper #1 (cover page) will be: Legal Case Brief:  Verizon vs. Federal Communications Commission, 740 F.3d 623 (D.C. Cir. 2014).  The title of Paper #2 (cover page) will be: Legal Case Brief:  Cambridge University Press, et al vs. Carl V. Patton, et al. D.C. Docket No. 1:08-cv-01425-ODE. (11th Cir., 2014).  NOTE: The student’s name, class/section, and date MUST be included in the lower right hand corner of the separate, title page.


Title & Citation: The title and citation must be included in their proper forms, appropriately updated, as they appear above.

Nature of the Case: This section includes the form of action (e.g., libel, invasion of privacy, breach of contract, etc.), the type of proceeding (e.g., appeal from lower court’s jury instructions, discretionary appeal from an appellate court, appeal from a judge’s directed verdict, etc.) and the relief sought (e.g., monetary damages, injunction, etc.).

Facts: This section is where students should include a precise summary of all relevant facts of the case, including the contentions of the different parties and the lower court rulings. What happened? It is most often written in chronological order to help the reader clearly understand the case. The parties are always indicated by their proper names throughout.

Issue: The issue is a precise question about a substantive legal issue which requires only a yes/no answer and which brings out the essence of the opinion as it relates to the topic of JOUR/SPCH 3060, Communication Law & Regulation.

Holding & Decision: First, answer the question asked as the issue (Ex: Yes or No). Second, give the vote (Ex: 6-1-2). The first number is the number of justices agreeing with the majority; the second number (if any) is the number agreeing – concurring – with the majority but for a different reason; the third number (if any) is the number disagreeing with the court ruling. Third, give the last name of the justice who authored the majority opinion. Fourth, offer a clear, in-depth, how/why discussion of the rule of the case and the court’s legal rationale. It must be written in easy-to-understand language.  Do NOT use “legalese.”  If you do incorporate any legal terms, those terms must be defined.

Concurrences and/or Dissents: Give the name of the justice(s) and then summarize each concurring and/or dissenting opinion separately. Keep this section (or these sections) very brief.

Concise Rule of Law: In a sentence, summarize the holding of the court. It should be a synopsis of the law applied in the case.

Analysis/Meaning: This section gives the reader a broad understanding of where the case “fits in” with other related cases and the law, as a whole. It compares the case with other similar rulings. It traces trends in jurisprudence to the time of the particular ruling. It gives the relevance of this case to the whole of communication law. What does the ruling mean? What do you think of how the Justices’ reasoning – do you agree/disagree?  This section is the most important part of the assignment.

NOTE: An outstanding paper will demonstrate an understanding of all substantive legal issues involved in the court’s ruling and convey that knowledge to a general audience (one with a ninth-grade reading level mastery of the English language). Papers should avoid all discussion of any issue not directly related to communication law or to the First Amendment, and also technical or procedural issues, such as – but not necessarily limited to – sovereign immunity, attorneys’ fees, declaratory judgments and permanent injunctions, etc. Papers must focus on the substantive legal issues only.

III.       References

No references are required or expected. No additional reading (other than the court’s ruling in the specific cases assigned) is required. However, the source of all quotations from the specific cases MUST be noted by including the correct page number of the reference in parentheses after the particular quoted material (see, sample legal case brief for an illustration of this).  If you DO use an outside source, make sure you cite your reference material in the case brief.

Remember: A legal case brief is a concise summary of the facts which resulted in the controversy and the court’s rationale for applying a specific rule to that controversy. A brief is a synopsis which highlights the essence of a court’s opinion. Students should understand all legal terms so they can explain them but not use the specific legal terms themselves.

IV.       Technical Requirements

(1) The paper MUST be typed, double-spaced on standard-size paper

(2) The required font is: Times New Roman 12-point font

(3) All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) must be set at 1 inch.

(4) Left justification only

(5) The TEXT for Papers #1 and #2 must run no more than three (3) full pages, maximum (not including title page).

(6) Students will “turn in” their papers by uploading them to the Desire2Learn course Dropbox folder, on or before the due date, prior to the start of class (before 4:30pm for Mondays-only students; before 11:00am for Tuesday-Thursday students).

(7) Files uploaded must be named as follows: [LASTNAME] [UNDERLINE MARK] [INITIAL OF FIRSTNAME] [HYPHEN MARK] [ASSIGNMENT NAME&NUMBER],  (Ex:  Hodgkiss_M-paper1.doc).

NOTE: All files must be “readable” by either Microsoft Word, i.e., *.DOC or *.DOCX format, or Adobe Acrobat Reader, i.e., *.PDF format.

ACADEMIC HONESTY REQUIREMENTS: All student work MUST be independent (not collaborative in any way), and the resulting papers must NOT be a rehash or rewrite or copy or revision of any previously submitted paper, whether for this course or for any other. Students must work alone; however, they may consult any written library or reference source. They should ask questions of the course instructor. Failure to work alone and independently will result in the student earning a “zero” on the assignment, an “F” in the course, and being subjected to disciplinary measures – including, but not limited to, academic suspension and transcript notation of academic misconduct, as outlined in the course syllabus.

GRADING:  Papers may be submitted early. Papers may NOT be submitted via e-mail, fax, or by handing in a hard copy during class.  Papers MUST be uploaded to the Desire2Learn course Dropbox folder by the deadline. Late papers uploaded after the start of class but during the remainder of the class time that day will be penalized one letter grade; other late papers turned in later the same day will be penalized one additional letter grade beginning with the end of class, and one additional letter grade the next day and for each subsequent class day late. (Do not forget that there is no “excused absence” available for late papers. Please see the course syllabus for further clarification of this policy.)

EX:      Before class = A, highest possible grade

During Class = B

After Class = C

Next Day = D

Third Day = F

The professor will not “pre-grade” papers nor will she read student papers in advance of the submission deadline; she will, however, advise and guide students in any way she can.  The student’s grade will be based on evidence of his/her understanding of the topic and legal analysis of the controversy, after deductions for both substantive and technical errors. In addition, the student’s grade will also be based on: (1) clarity, succinctness, and completeness; (2) evidence of independent, self-sufficient, original work; (3) technical inaccuracies (including grammar, sentence structure, use of language, writing style, etc.); (4) page length requirements; and (5) source citations, if any quoted material is used.  Students should keep the following in mind:

  • “A” papers: These projects are outstanding in their demonstration of the student’s ability to think through a topic clearly and creatively, offering new insights to the subject matter. Source materials are referenced appropriately, with no (or very, very few) spelling or grammar errors. A clear structure to the writing is evident. The assignment advances an argument and supports it with evidence, never straying from the subject matter at hand.
  • “B” papers: Thought has clearly been put into these papers. New connections are made between the course material and the assignment, often with creative examples that add to the argument being advanced. The argument is clear, the assignment is structured properly, there are few errors in grammar and spelling, and source material is cited throughout, where appropriate.
  • “C” papers: These papers meet the requirements as noted on the assignment sheet and little more. The analysis is not original on the part of the student author (i.e., they are all borrowed from class or other sources) and often not tied explicitly to the assignment. Assertions are weakly substantiated with evidence or are underdeveloped throughout. Source material is adequately utilized and cited, where appropriate, but there are more grammar and spelling errors than there should be in a well-written paper.
  • “D” papers: The assignment guidelines are barely met. These papers utilize little or no thought as evidenced by the neglect of the topic, weak understanding of the subject, unclear point of view, poor writing, disorganization, or a seeming distance from the course concepts. There are too many grammar and spelling errors.
  • “F” papers: Such papers have little or no structure or substance and clearly violate the criteria of the assignment. Technical errors overwhelm these papers.