Courses

Prerequisites

It is expected that the majority of LL.M. candidates will already have taken both Evidence and Criminal Procedure as J.D. students. In the case of practitioners, prerequisite will be waived if not met. Prerequisites may also be waived at the discretion of the Program Director after an individual consultation with the student.

Law Courses

Forensic Justice LL.M. Seminar
A required 4-credit LL.M. Seminar that covers a wide range of topics relating to the role that forensic evidence plays in the criminal justice system, the strengths and weaknesses of various forensic disciplines, and other relevant topics. The LL.M. Seminar includes guest lecturers, student projects, and site visitations to incorporate and integrate the theory and practice of forensics with the criminal justice system. The seminar reflects the ultimate goal of the LL.M. program: to bring together forensic scientific disciplines with legal skills and litigation theory to create forensic justice. .Students will complete class presentations, as well as their substantial piece of written work or field-work project required in the LL.M. program.

LAW 712 Analytical Methods for Lawyers
This course is an introduction and overview to economic and analytical concepts to assist lawyers in the interpretation and presentation of data. Some of the basic concepts addressed will be decision analysis, probability, economics, and statistics as they relate to the practice of law. Students will become familiar with data analysis in a legal context, and how to apply the use of statistics and econometrics. Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to: (1) explain the basic key concepts of statistical analysis, probability, decision analysis, and economics; (2) communicate confidently with experts through written documents, direct examination, and cross-examination; (3) use appropriate terminology within the institutional framework of regulatory bodies; and (4) analyze quantitative issues that arise routinely in various areas of law practice.

LAW 661 Forensic and Expert Evidence
This course will continue where the substantive course of Evidence and the practitioner’s course of Trial Advocacy left off by teaching students how to use evidence as a functional tool in the courtroom. While there will be brief overviews of the law of evidence, the vast majority of this course is dedicated to teaching students through realistic examples of how particular rules are used during litigation and when and how to make objections. Through practical exercises, based on real cases where an evidence ruling was the central issue, students will prepare and defend their arguments. In addition the focus of this course will be on helping students develop a solid grounding in the methods and procedures of science and technology by presenting complex issues in a clear and concise way, explaining technical material, and teaching students to become sophisticated consumers of expert and forensic evidence.

LAW 688-D Science and the Law
This is a survey seminar in science and the law, broadly examining issues connecting the two disciplines and their inter-development. Students will also study whether human behaviors can be determined by genetics and investigate whether studies that pursue questions of behavioral determinant genes overstate what the research can uncover. The course requires students to analyze subtle nuances between various judicial decisions, legislative enactments, and legal rules concerning scientific developments, which may often appear in conflict. Students are furthermore expected to balance the theoretical with the practical: to consider context, social, and political policy in their deliberation about these cases and rules. Readings include excerpts from medical journals, cases, newspapers, and social science periodicals.

Forensic and Investigative Science Courses

FIS 432/632 Biological and Chemical Evidence
This newly designed course for LL.M. students reviews the main types of evidence studied through biological and chemical methods: DNA, arson residue, controlled substances, toxicology, and questioned documents/ink analysis. The course is structured in the form of modules, each representing one of these areas of expertise. In each module, students will learn background on the specific form of evidence, how to collect the data, and how to interpret the data and findings.

FIS 514 Impression and Trace Evidence
This newly designed course for LL.M. students reviews impression and trace evidence, notably: latent prints, footwear, ballistics, bloodstain patterns, trace evidence, and questioned documents/handwriting and signatures. The course is structured in the form of modules, each representing one of these areas of expertise. In each module, students will learn background on the specific form of evidence, how to collect the data, and how to interpret the data and findings.

FIS 480 Forensic Quality Assurance
This course examines accreditation schemes for labs, controls and methodologies for labs, and how they are implemented. A major addition included in this course for LL.M. students is the implementation of court testimony activities focused on aspects of quality assurance. The course informs students about the distinctions between quality assurance and quality control, accreditation and certification, and competency tests and proficiency tests – all common areas of confusion in the courtroom and legal community.

FIS 501 Foundations of Criminalistics
This course reviews the core theories and the fundamental principles of forensic science at an advanced level. Particular attention is dedicated to problems related to evidence interpretation. Students will be required to increase their knowledge by analyzing several literature sources. Topics such as introduction to research, reasoning patterns, the scientific method, and ethics will also be discussed. LL.M. students will also be exposed to case studies and methods of questioning scientific evidence. They will review case materials to critically focus on the fundamental principles discussed in class pertaining to physical evidence concepts and methodology of forensic examinations.

Joint Forensic and Investigative Science and Law Courses

FIS 620 Forensic Casework Practicum
This graduate level course brings together FIS Masters students with LL.M students to process a crime scene and analyze the evidence through presentation of such evidence in the courtroom. This course is a unique opportunity for attorneys to work with forensic analysts throughout the entire process of developing a case. The law students will accompany forensic students to the crime scene to understand the crime scene processing and evidence collection and preservation. The two groups will then separate. Forensic students will do their analytical work in the forensic laboratories and law students will do research on presiding cases where forensic evidence was challenged in the legal system. The two groups will then re-unite and consult with each other based on results obtained. At the conclusion, the law students will prepare the expert witnesses for court examination and cross-examination.

Research Paper or Field Work

A goal of the program is for LL.M. graduates to bring their in-depth understanding of the areas of law and forensic science into their practice in a tangible way. To that end, the Research Paper or Field-Work Project is meant to lay the groundwork for future professional work. For students hoping to contribute to the growing body of legal scholarship focusing on the intersection (and sometimes tension) between law and forensics, the option to write a research paper on an important issue in the field might form the basis for a later journal article. Alternatively, those students wishing to enter private practice or the public sector may wish to work on real world problems. In this instance, the written work product might take the form of an appellate brief, a reply brief, a pre-trial motion relating to expert witness testimony, or other similar pleading. Opportunities to complete such projects may be available through existing experiential learning placements available at WVU Law or through specific projects developed through student interest. Each project will require approval of the Program Director before it is started and upon completion. The Research Paper or Field-Work Project will be conducted in conjunction with the LL.M. Seminar.

International Programs

WVU Law already offers a number of international programs for credit, including trips to Geneva, Mexico, and Brazil. WVU Law could approve participation in any of these international programs for LL.M. credit, with approval of the Program Director, as long as there is a demonstrable link between participation in the international program and the student’s course of study.

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