Law class examines legal aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks

Ben Goessling

A new University law course will give Cedar Holmgren a chance to closely examine an event that most Americans would rather forget.

“After the Sept. 11 attacks, I was so annoyed when I heard the president tell people to try to go back to normal,” the second-year law student said. “But I was so insulated by the demands in my life I didn’t have a choice. I had to go back to what I was doing. This class gives me the chance to really think about what happened.”

The one-credit course, “National Security and the Constitution in Times of War and Crisis,” taught by law professor Michael Paulsen, is being offered to University law students in their second and third years of study. The course began Oct. 2 and will run for six weeks.

Paulsen said he decided to teach the course after returning to class the day after the attacks.

“I was going back to class teaching the usual curriculum when I realized that most of the issues we had been discussing were affected by the current state of war,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen developed a course plan that covered aspects of law the Sept. 11 attacks influenced. The syllabus includes lectures on immigration, search and seizure, and war-crime law.

In Tuesday’s class, students focused on whether the ability to prevent massive civilian deaths justified the creation of a race-based classification system. Paulsen asked students if the government should be able to detain or arrest people based on race alone, drawing references to recent incidents with Arab-Americans.

“I like that we talk about what’s happening in the world right now in class,” said Ellen Dahl, a second-year law student. “Sometimes things seem so distant to directly see how they apply to our lives.”

There is no assigned book in the class, only handouts Paulsen assembles before class. The class examines Supreme Court cases, which provide a historical background for current events related to the attacks.

“I didn’t realize all of things presidents have done in situations like this,” Holmgren said.

Paulsen said although the University is typically a school for students interested in corporate law, he believes the University will see fewer corporate lawyers and more FBI agents graduate from its ranks.

“It’s a good course for students to study new aspects of law,” he said. “They need to learn, know and train for the world they live in. And this is not the world that existed when they signed up for law school.”


Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]