When Textbooks Come to Life

Recently, it dawned on me that as a 3L, I only have one more year to enjoy what law school has to offer. Sometimes, I’m so eager to start my career that I forget to stop and appreciate the unique opportunities that I have as a law student, which may not be available anymore when I leave BC Law and start a full-time job.

One of these opportunities happened last week right on our campus. On Thursday and Friday, BC Law had the honor of hosting the Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules (thanks to Professor Coquillette, who is the Reporter to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure for the Judicial Conference). The Committee, made up of federal judges and practicing attorneys, including members of the Department of Justice, is charged with making recommendations to the Judicial Conference on the Federal Rules of Evidence.

On Thursday, the Committee held its meeting at BC Law to discuss potential amendments to some of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The meeting was open to the public, giving students, professors, and members of the community the opportunity to hear about potential changes to certain Evidence Rules and the reasoning behind those changes. On Thursday, they discussed several rules, including Rule 404(b), which concerns the introduction of prior bad acts of a defendant, and Rule 106, which governs the use of relevant written and recorded statements to complete an incomplete statement.

As I was sitting in the room with these Committee members, watching and listening to them discuss and debate these rules, I felt like I had entered into my Evidence casebook from fall semester of my 2L year. I remember reading the Advisory Committee notes in the back of our textbook and discussing them in class with Professor Cassidy, in order to understand the policy reasons behind the rules, and what changes the rules had undergone throughout the years to address concerns of justice and fairness. It was fascinating to witness the efforts that go into designing the rules that we learn about in class.

On Friday, the Committee was joined by more judges and practitioners, as well as leading scientists and academics, for a Symposium on Forensic Expert Testimony, Daubert, and Rule 702. This Symposium brought me back to the Scientific Evidence seminar that I took in the spring of my 2L year, in which we discussed various issues in forensic science, the use of expert testimony, and the “gatekeeping” role of judges when it comes to scientific evidence. Again, I felt like my textbook was coming alive as I listened to scientists, judges, and practitioners discussing and debating everything from eyewitness identifications, to the process of accrediting a forensic laboratory, to how forensic science tends to be overstated in courts when experts claim that there is a “match,” without adequately explaining their methodologies and the error rates of those methodologies.

It’s events like this that I will miss when I graduate from BC Law. Although I trust that my career will bring new and exciting experiences, law school provides a unique opportunity to explore all different corners of the legal field. Events like the Advisory Committee meeting, where distinguished guests visit our school to share their knowledge and expertise, are always happening at BC Law because of our amazing faculty and alumni base. We would be remiss to not take advantage of these opportunities, especially because so many of them address the things that we learn about in the classroom, and bring the materials from our casebooks to life.

Venus Chui is a 3L at BC Law, president of the Christian Legal Society, and a managing editor for the Boston College Law Review. Feel free to contact her with questions about her experiences at BC Law. Comment here or send her an e-mail at venus.chui@bc.edu.

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