This classic four-credit course deals with controversial Supreme Court cases on key problems of the American dual-court dual-law system. Federal Courts is an advanced course in the structural Constitution and in public law. (Contrary to some expectations, it is not a course in federal civil procedure, advanced or otherwise.) The course explores politically controversial federal judicial powers, and acute clashes of power: the powers of state and federal judiciaries to interfere with each other; the powers of the political and judicial branches to interfere with each other; judicial federal lawmaking power and doctrines of supremacy and preemption; the power of federal courts to try cases against both state and federal governments; and their power to govern state or nation by decree.
Federal Courts is recommended for students seeking to empower themselves to counsel and/or litigate in any area subject to federal governance. Federal Courts is, of course, an essential course for those interested in judicial clerkships, state or federal, and is recommended also for those planning to work in, or to represent clients regulated by, a federal agency or department. The course is also helpful to those who would like a better understanding of the extraordinary powers of American courts, and to those who are concerned about political and social issues surrounding the work of federal courts.
Because the cases are typically United States Supreme Court cases, they are important in themselves. The Supreme Court's major cases on Federal Courts, like the Supreme Court's major cases on the Constitution, are part of the permanent legal culture shared by American lawyers nationwide, intrinsically worth the student's time.
The readings are interesting classic or current Supreme Court cases arising across the spectrum of substantive areas of federal law, such as intellectual property, communications law, civil rights, constitutional law, securities regulation, employment law, antitrust, admiralty, taxation, bankruptcy, immigration, environmental, general administrative law, terrorism, international law, and so forth. The course thus provides useful general background in several areas of substantive federal law. (However, no prior knowledge of any area of federal law is needed or expected.)
Prerequisites: The course requires and presumes a basic grounding in American cases on torts, civil and criminal procedure, and the Constitution of the United States. It is therefore closed to first-year students, and to those transfer students, visitors, cross-registering graduate students, or foreign students, who have not previously acquired this grounding in American case law in those basic subjects. Four hours.