[eDebate] How to write an elegant legal topic.

scottelliott at grandecom.net scottelliott
Thu Jun 8 17:12:06 CDT 2006

By the way Steve and Ede, this is all in good fun. No real personal attacks in
anything I write. I invite you, Ede and anyone else I have offended on this
specific topic, (notice how I limit my liability) to drinks on me next time any
of you are down here in Dallas. People say I am a hoot to be around when I am
buying the drinks--but of course, I was buying THE DRINKS when they said that.

I too have to get back to work and I drafted another response. But to your
comment about elegance in topic construction deserves a rejoinder.

I wholeheartedly agree. I think topics should be a simple declarative
statements. But, I was asked to fix a problem that already exists. In my line
of work I have to do that a lot. its not my mess, i just get paid to claen it

I was asked to clean up the mess that is the "list topics." The result is a
rather inartful compilation.

If I were ruler of the CEDA universe, but benevolent enough to my peons who want
to debate a legal topic, my resolution(s) would be:

Resolved: the United States Supreme Court should rule that the penalty of death
in all cases is unconstitutional.


Resolved: that the United States Supreme Coulrt should rule that race based
classifications in governmental activities are subject to the rational basis

That's it. Those are my perfect resolutions on this topic area.

Now, my-not-so-perfect-but-try-to-appease-the-megaprograms-who-want-lists would

Resolved the United States Supreme Court should make one or more of the
following rulings:

(1) that the penalty of death in all cases is unconstitutional;

(2) that race based classifications for admissions in educational institutions
subject to Equal Protection review are subject to the rational basis test;

(3) that all persons engaged in hostilities against the United States are
subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention's code for the treatment of
prisoners of war;

(4) persons do not have a constitutional right to an medically induced abortion
unless they can demonstrate that such a procedure is necessary to protect their
own life or the life of another person;

(5) plant species and non-human species have standing to sue in the federal


(note Numer 4 was worded for a very specific reason--it is sometimes necessary
to abort one fetus to save another in multiple pregnancy situations)

(number 5 is and is not a joke--there are solvency advocates for this one ;) )


Quoting Steve Mancuso <spmancuso at aol.com>:

> Scott,
> I've appreciated your comments this year quite a bit.  I think they
> have been very constructive and helpful for people to clarify the way
> they think about this.  I hope you'll keep working to help us improve
> the product.  You obviously have important expertise in this area.
> Writing a topic slate is pretty difficult even in the best of
> circumstances.
> Certainly people ran some squirrelly cases on the China topic.  I was
> making the point that 80% of the rounds were on the mainstream stuff -
> IPR, prolif sanctoins etc.  At least the rounds I judged and the cases
> I coached against.  There will always be those at the edges.  Your post
> seems to imply (as it did last year) that no on will debate the
> mainstream, and I simply think history is against that.  [I also hope
> you note that I took direct reference to you out of my post to
> edebate.]
> I did read the draft resolution that Tim submitted.  In my letter to
> the sub-group I addressed that as the "100+ word addition" and the
> problems with that.
> You used to be for short, elegantly worded topics.  Now you're for the
> longest and most awkward ever.  I've always been more on your side - I
> hated the Europe topic, for example.   It's OK to be back and forth
> like that, and I know you are just trying to help us out of our jam,
> but your flip-flop on this is at least as ironic as anything you
> pointed out.  ;-)
> Regards,
> Steve
> On Jun 8, 2006, at 3:31 PM, scottelliott at grandecom.net wrote:
> > Irony. Go back and check my predictions on the China topic. Every one
> > of them
> > came true. LOL
> >
> >
> > In fact, i got e-mails from people saying that they were a little
> > pissed that I
> > revealed "their strat" in advance.
> >
> > are you telling me people did not run Darfur on the China topic? Are
> > you telling
> > me Dartmouth wasn't running environmental cases about bees and honey?
> > Are you
> > telling me people didn't run Deforestation in other countries like
> > Indonesia
> > cases? I'd say check the wake caselist.
> >
> > I'm not going to argue every point with you. The topic will shake out
> > and I will
> > smirk when one of my former students calls me to say, Het man, you were
> > right---as usual.
> >
> > LOL
> >
> > I don't think you loked at the draft resolution I put together for
> > Tim. All I
> > did was quoute the main holding verbatim from the S. Court. The use of
> > the term
> > "to the extent" means that the Aff. is limited to that holding, but
> > does not
> > have to do so far as to overrule the other points of law--such a the
> > right to
> > judical review.
> >
> > I never said the case areas were bad. I would not have chosen them,
> > but they are
> > not bad. I just think---I'll stop here and refer you back to my posts
> > on
> > e-debate.
> >
> > y'all do what you want. its your ball game.
> >
> > Quoting Steve Mancuso <spmancuso at aol.com>:
> >
> >> Here is my substantive defense of the current list topics.  I'm going
> >> to post a cleaned up version to edebate in a minute.
> >>
> >
> >
> >
> >

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