Honors 101 - Science and the Public Good
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Mount Soledad Simulation

In 2007, a section of hillside in La Jolla failed, resulting in the destruction of several homes. Litigation immediately followed. You are a member of a law firm representing one side in the controversy (you may be choose which party to represent from the list below). Your job is to prepare a written brief in support of your side. Your brief should consist of at least four arguments, each supported by specific evidence from your research.You should not only look for arguments and evidence that support your clients, but should anticipate the arguments of the other sides in the disputes.

The parties involved are:

  1. homeowners who lost their homes in the slope failure
  2. the city of La Jolla
  3. the developer of the neighborhood
  4. real estate agents who sold the properties
  5. the State of California

Start your research with these articles:

La Jolla Light: Litigation to follow Mount Soledad landslide

New York Times: San Diego Landslide Threatens Homes

Voice of San Diego: Battle for Mount Soledad

Then feel free to expand your research on-line. You may “call expert witnesses” by getting direct quotes from credible witnesses and using them in your oral arguments.

Here are some questions to think about and discuss as you construct your case:

  1. In avoiding loss of life and property damage from natural hazards, how much responsibility should each of these groups have: homeowners, local governments, state government, federal government?
  2. If home buyers should do their “due diligence” in researching properties before they buy them, how much research is it reasonable to expect people to do?
  3. It’s very difficult for most people to plan for low-frequency, high-impact events. Does this mean it is reasonable to expect government to assume that responsibility, or should individuals be held more responsible?
  4. As responsibility migrates from individuals to governments, what are the possible consequences? What happens to individual choices? What happens to social costs?