PUBLISHED:November 24, 2009

Read all about it in The Federal Circ.

Nov. 24, 2009 ⎯ When Christopher Berg ’12 began his first semester at Duke Law School this fall, he was amazed at the number of high-profile, interesting speakers coming to Duke to make insightful lunchtime presentations to students.

But he also noted that the hour-long sessions, while offering insightful presentations on a range of topics, didn’t always leave time for debate among students.

“It was top-down issue discussion,” he says. “We are often talked to. I wanted students to be part of the debate. Too often I feel like we find ourselves citing an opinion when expressing our position on a legal issue. Whenever I find myself or someone else saying, ‘Well, the courts say … .’ I think to myself, ‘But what do you think? What should be done ⎯ how could things be better?’”

Berg is now providing a venue for student-driven discussion of legal topics by publishing The Federal Circ, a one-page newsletter that presents two sides of an issue, one on the front, one on the back. The first edition tackled executive power; the second discussed the merits and pitfalls of judicial elections.

Published every other week, The Circ (short for circular) is available on periodical racks around the Law School. Berg also set up a website for the project, and he hopes to build it into a blog.

The publication’s design pays homage to the Federalist Papers and Revolutionary-era newspapers ⎯ a style choice that Berg hopes will also influence the tone of the debate in the newsletter.

“We want this to be a bit formal and academic, but still accessible,” he says. “We’re setting out to debate first principles underlying the issues, so the Revolutionary-era design seemed appropriate.”

Berg is president-elect of the Duke Law chapter of the Federalist Society, which is sponsoring the project, but he is adamant that the newsletter will present cogent, intelligent arguments across and beyond the traditionally political spectrum.

“I want to get people talking,” Berg says. “Our goal is to provide the bare essentials of a position ⎯ the essays are short ⎯ to help get debate going.”

He has recruited 12 volunteer writers so far, all 1Ls ⎯ some from the Federalist Society, some from the American Constitution Society, and others who just “like to write.” Writers use pen names, Berg says, to encourage students to consider taking positions they might not normally take. “Any position you have is strengthened when you can navigate the opposing view,” he says.

The publishing venture is a first for Berg, who graduated from Princeton with a degree in political science and a minor in East Asian studies. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says, “and I’m a 1L, so I really don’t have time for this! But I think it can enhance our experience of law school. My hope is that people will pay attention to it, discuss and debate the issues, and formulate their own perspectives.”

For more information or to participate, contact Chris Berg.