April 15, 2015

Using Breaking Bad In the Law School Classroom

Max Minzner, University of New Mexico School of Law, has published Breaking Bad in the Classroom in volume 45 New Mexico Law Review (2015). Here is the abstract.

Breaking Bad is often described as the transformation of Walter White — Mr. Chips becomes Scarface. Equally significant, though, are the journeys of Hank Schrader, his DEA pursuer, and Hank’s colleagues. The show is a study of law enforcement investigation in action. As a result, Breaking Bad can serve as a tool of pedagogy in criminal procedure.

This Essay seeks to serve two ends. First, it provides a map for the use of the Breaking Bad series in the core constitutional criminal procedure course focusing on the limits on police investigation arising from the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Video is a powerful mechanism for presenting hypotheticals to students. Recent work on other shows such as The Wire has recognized the value of television as an alternative pedagogical technique in the law school curriculum. Breaking Bad deserves to take its place as a teaching aid in a criminal procedure classroom. The first part of this Essay identifies usable scenes for both faculty and students, and provides a preliminary analysis of the doctrine.

The second goal of this Essay is to expand the focus of the traditional course beyond the United States Constitution. Breaking Bad is more than a show about cops and criminals. It is a show about New Mexico. As a result, for those of us training New Mexico’s future prosecutors and defense lawyers, it provides a mechanism to introduce students to state criminal procedure. As is true in many states, the New Mexico Constitution contains parallel protections to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments that have been interpreted more broadly than their restrictive federal counterparts. This Essay is a call to law school faculty to incorporate state constitutions into the criminal procedure class. Because criminal law is fundamentally state law, these are the provisions our students will implement in practice. As a result, they deserve significant time in the criminal procedure course.

As legal education changes, law school faculty members teaching doctrinal classes are increasingly called on to make traditional law school courses more practical. The central goal of these efforts is to make our graduates more practice-ready and to increase the realism of legal education. The constitutional criminal procedure course is perhaps the best place to start. The core of the course is practice-oriented and will be implemented by our graduates as soon as they begin a career in criminal law. Breaking Bad is one mechanism for faculty members to use. In this way, the use of fiction can make criminal procedure more realistic.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

While the idea (pedagogically) has been around for a while (see for example my (very) old piece Columbo Goes To Law School: Or, Some Thoughts On the Uses of Television in the Teaching of Law, 13 Loy. L. A. Ent. L.J. 499 (1993)), Prof. Minzner's piece is interesting because it focuses attention on New Mexico state law and on state constitutions.

No comments: