1. Obesity is a major problem in America. Fast food chains, such as McDonald's and Jack in the Box, provide cheap food high in calories and fat. Anecdotal evidence indicates that poor persons and single parents disproportionately rely on fast food restaurants because of a lack of money and/or preparation time. Should we add a new tax on fast food chains to make them more expensive, thereby driving traffic to healthier venues?
2. Should we raise taxes on oil/gasoline, causing the retail price of gasoline to go up? Let's assume this tax increase would result in a better environment as fewer people drove cars or switched to smaller cars with better mileage. If your answer is different than your response to question number one, explain the reason you answered differently.
3. Should we tax oil companies' profits at a higher rate than other companies' profits? If so, why? Also, how should the government spend the money received from the new taxes?
4. A employee of a minority group gets a different supervisor of a racial majority group at work. His previous supervisor left voluntarily to another company. The employee's new supervisor is a racist; however, the employee's performance is declining, and if another month passes, he would get fired because of his own incompetence. His supervisor fires him one week later because he dislikes members of the employee's ethnic/racial group. The employee is making 8 dollars an hour. How much, if anything, would you recommend he receive if he sued the company, and you were a juror?
5. You are sitting alone in a restaurant minding your own business and eating a hamburger. You are sitting at a mid-sized table with four chairs. It is a busy day, but there are other open tables available. Someone sits down next to you at your table. What do you say or do, if anything?
6. Every year, the American government takes about 13% of each employee's salary and puts it into a general fund for everyone's retirement/pension (i.e., the Social Security program). Should you have the ability to invest your contributions the way you see fit? Or should the government manage and direct everyone's contributions? Government officials contend that many people do not know how to invest or may invest recklessly, and they want to prevent a situation where people lose their money through bad investments, which defeats the purpose of having a nationwide retirement program (i.e., to prevent poverty in old age).
7. A vegan on the city council wants to pass a local law/ordinance requiring all local restaurants to use a certain kind of cheese, made without animal products (i.e., rennet). She complains it is unfair for restaurants, especially pizza places, to effectively exclude her from their establishments. You are also on the city council. How do you vote?
8. A vegan on the city council wants to pass a local law/ordinance requiring all local restaurants to affirmatively disclose whether their ingredients are vegan, i.e. made without animal products. This would require local restaurants to change their menus and spend money replacing existing menus. He wants a penalty of 500 dollars per violation and wants the city to have random inspections of restaurants to ensure they are in compliance. You are also on the city council. How do you vote?
9. Do you believe in a God that is omnipotent but does not interfere in our daily lives?
10. [Added August 20, 2008] Your law firm's copy machine breaks down, so you are able to serve the other side with a motion, but you miss the filing deadline by one day. The other side is not affected--they were served properly, but the statute says the court must deny the motion unless it is also filed on time, or unless good cause exists for filing it late.
The legal process has strict timelines to ensure efficiency and predictability. Most deadlines require a litigant to file documents with the court and serve the other side by a certain date and time. Failure to enforce deadlines consistently results in a situation where judges seem to favor one side over another or appear inconsistent.
In this case, the court/judge would not have looked at the documents until several days later. The court itself is unaffected, as well as the other side, who was served timely. You are the judge. The law requires you to strike the documents unless you find good cause exists for a late filing. You are wary of accepting an excuse of a copy machine breakdown, and worry it might lead to others filing their motions late. The statute clearly requires you to either find good cause, or deny the motion. What do you do, and what is your rationale?
Bonus: does it make a difference if the law firm that was late represented an average employee? What if the law firm represented a corporation making $50,000 net annually? 1 million net annually? Should the judge consider these external factors, even though the statute does not mention them?
11. [Added 9/18/08] Imagine you are the president of a country. Your country has lots of natural resources, but only in the last few years has it managed to begin spreading the wealth and have a world-class stock market. In addition to the money flowing into your country's companies from other countries, your own citizens have invested a lot of their money. Due to unforeseen events and bad news, your stock market goes down 5%, then 10%, then 20% on three consecutive days. People are complaining about losing their life savings and street protests are being organized. You have the power to temporarily shut down the stock market, thereby preventing any trades from occurring, which would prevent investors from withdrawing their money from stocks and new investors from coming in. You expect to open the stock market again in a few days, when you believe things will be calmer. Do you shut down the stock market after the three consecutive down days, or do let the market stay open, thereby risking another large drop? If so, how many days do you shut down the market?
12. [Add 7/28/09] Click here for questions relating to the Cambridge PD's arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
13. I am borrowing the following hypothetical from Slawek W.:
John invents a cure for cancer. It is a pill, very easily made, in fact, one could make it with ingredients found in every household. He successfully demonstrates the effectiveness of this cure on several volunteers, after which he announces to the world that he has no intention of ever releasing any information about this cure. He further announces that the instructions to produce this cure have been implanted somewhere in his body in a soluble capsule which will completely dissolve in a week along with the instructions.
Let's suppose that a surgical search for this implant would end John's life.
Let's further suppose that there is absolutely no way that you can reason with John to change his mind, and you cannot reverse engineer the cure by studying the cured patients.
Now, the general population is asked what the best course of action is in this situation. John has the knowledge to eradicate cancer forever but he has no intention of sharing this information for whatever reason. Also, there is no way to forcefully retrieve this information without causing John's death in the process.
What would you propose to do? Would it matter if John was your 16 years old son?
14. [Added on 8/27/11] A police department participates in various community outreach programs. The department initially asks officers to visit an event at a local mosque, but when no one volunteers, mandates an officer's and his four subordinates' attendance. (We may assume at some point during the event, the mosque may hold prayers, but the officers would not be compelled to participate.) The officer refuses on the grounds that 1) he believes the mosque has ties to violent fundamentalist organizations; and 2) as a devout Christian, it is against his religious beliefs to go to a non-Christian house of worship. The officer also says that to the extent that his subordinates sincerely believe that their religion forbids them from attending and participating in Islamic religious ceremonies or that the mosque is funded by anti-American elements, he may not compel them to attend, either. What should the police department do?
15. [Added on 8/27/11] A mentally and physically disabled teenager is given an honorary spot on the high school football team. He suits up and participates in practices as an assistant and spends most of his time helping players by bringing them water and equipment. In some cases, at the end of an official game, the coaches of both teams agree to sub him in for a play or two. During these plays, the team gives the teenager the ball, and he sometimes scores a touchdown. This situation goes unnoticed for four years, until the teenager becomes 19 years old. The state athletic commission sends a letter to the team informing them that no one may join or participate in a team's practices or games after turning 19 years old. The commission says it understands the unique situation but it must enforce its rules equally. You are elected as the head of the state high school athletic commission the next day. What would you do?