Category Archives: St. John’s


After 12 years at St. John’s University School of Law, I will be leaving New York to become the next Dean of Charleston School of Law in South Carolina, effective at the end of June 2020. I will leave this blog up but will not be updating it.

Back in Business

After an almost seven year hiatus, the New York Criminal Law and Procedure Blog is back in business.  After becoming Associate Dean for Student Services, I took time off from blogging to focus on my “day job.”  A lot has happened since.  I went on to become Associate Academic Dean and, later, Vice Dean, where I was responsible for supervising nearly all of the “internal” operations of our school. I also got married and moved out to the wonderful community of Long Beach, NY. I recently stepped down from day-to-day administration, although I remain the Associate Dean for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness and am the director of our Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy.  Helping me with the blog are the Fellows of the Center.

The blog has a new look.  I’ve migrated it to WordPress (from TypePad).  The CTAA Fellows and I hope to post a few times a week on new cases, legislation, and news reports.  As always, I appreciate your feedback at  (LC)

Rethinking the way Criminal Law is taught

My sense is that most Criminal Law courses are taught from a broad, national perspective.  Students learn the basic common law and Model Penal Code rules of mens rea, actus reus, etc., and usually how they apply in homicide and, sometimes, rape.  This semester, I am trying a new approach.  I have assigned a new text by Markus Dubber at Buffalo called New York Criminal Law.  Nealry all of the cases are from New York courts.  It also includes relevant provisions of the Penal Law and, where comparison is appropriate, the Model Penal Code.

As most of us who practice Criminal Law know, the subject is inherently statutorily based.  Analysis of a problem must begin with the relevant statute defining the crime or defense.  One's attention should then turn to the cases from that jurisdiction that have already interpreted the statute in question.  What a Connecticut court says about a Connecticut statute has no bearing on how a New York will confront an issue under New York law.  While there are common threads throughout states' approaches to Criminal Law, I think students benefit more from working with a unified code and cases, just as they will in real life. 

I also believe students should learn more specific crimes.  General principles of liability, such as mens rea, only take one so far in the real world.  The real challenge is figuring out how those principles apply in specific contexts.  Even those who go into Criminal Law will not try homicides until well into their careers.  Another reason I like the Dubber text is that it covers a wide range of crimes, including homicide, sexual offenses, DWI, assault, and larceny.

I will keep readers of this blog posted on how this approach works with my students this semester.  (LC)

CLE opportunity

This semester at St. John's, I am teaching Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis to 1L students.  Their final project for the course is an oral argument before a mock panel of the Appellate Division.

This year I am teaching 22 students in the evening program.  Since many evening students work full-time during the day and attend classes at night, I have scheduled most of their arguments for Sunday, April 17, 2011.  Two students will argue on Thursday, April 14.  Judges will receive a short bench memo in advance.  Students will each argue for about 5 minutes and then receive a brief critique from the panel.  You are welcome to serve on as few or as many sessions as you'd like; the schedule is below.  All arguments will be in the St. John's Law School Moot Court Room at our Queens campus.

If you are an "experienced attorney," your participation will earn 1.0 CLE credits per hour.  "Newly admitted attorneys," however, are not eligible for moot court-related CLE credit.

Last year's students raved about the experience and genuinely appreciated being able to argue in front of practicing attorneys.  If you are interested in volunteering, please email me ( and indicate which time slots you would like to judge.  The available times are:

Thursday, April 14, 2011
5:30-6:30 pm

Sunday, April 17, 2011
10:00 am – 11:00 am
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Off Topic: Job Announcement for St. John’s Professor

Although this is not on-topic to the blog, I thought readers would appreciate learning that St. John's University School of Law is looking to hire a legal writing professor for the 2010-11 academic year.  The announcement follows.  Please forward to anyone who might be interested.

St. John's University School of Law has a full-time position available for an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, which will commence in August 2010.


Starting Assistant Professors of Legal Writing are afforded renewable one-year contracts for three years, to be voted upon by the Faculty Council and Dean.  Upon successful peer and student evaluations, as well as any other pertinent considerations (scholarship and service are considered but not required), a three-year renewable contract may be offered by the Faculty Council and the Dean.  Upon completion of a three-year contract, a Legal Writing Professor may be eligible for a renewable seven-year contract.

The school anticipates that the starting annual academic year base salary for the position will be in the range of $80,000 to $85,000.

In the fall, writing professors teach Legal Analysis and Writing, a two-credit course. The responsibilities of the writing professors include creating and critiquing writing assignments emphasizing case law analysis,
statutory interpretation, and basic writing skills.

In the spring, writing professors teach Legal Analysis, Writing and Research, a two-credit course.  The responsibilities include teaching legal research, memoranda writing, appellate brief writing, and oral argument.

Summer research stipends may be available as well as some conference travel or other professional development funds.


St. John's seeks individuals with strong interest and competencies in teaching legal research and writing.  Candidates should have excellent academic records (including a J.D. or its equivalent).  Teaching experience, scholarship, and practice experience as a lawyer would be viewed favorably.


Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, the names of three references, writing sample and teaching evaluations (if available) to:
Professor Robert A. Ruescher
Coordinator, Legal Writing Program   
St. John's University School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

St. John's University School of Law is part of St. John's University, a Catholic and Vincentian institution of higher education committed to academic excellence and the pursuit of wisdom and truth.  As an Equal
Opportunity Employer, St. John's encourages applications from women and minorities.  The University is located in the New York metropolitan area and is accessible by highways and public transportation to NYC.


Position type: The position may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

Faculty Vote: The person hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

Salary: The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range of $80,000 to $85000. (A base salary does NOT include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other
professional development funds.)

Students Per Semester: The person hired will teach legal writing each semester to a total number of students in the range of 36 to 45.

Submission Deadline: Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.