Legal Authority

Description: This seminar will examine legal authority in relation to adjudication. Insofar as proper judicial decision-making maintains fidelity to the law, its requirements depend on what the law is, and that, in turn, depends on the roots of law's authority. Thus we will study the fundamental nature of legal authority, of moral authority, and the relationship between the two in this context. Our examination will focus particularly on two widespread and in many ways successful forms of legal authority: constitutional and common law. By probing the sources and limitations of these, we will gain a firmer grasp of the character of legal authority as such. We will then consider how differing conceptions of the law's authority shape some of the leading accounts of proper adjudication, focusing on Judicial Minimalism (increasingly advocated by thinkers across the ideological spectrum) and Dworkinian perfectionism. Readings (tentative): extended excerpts from: Douglas Edlin, Judges & Unjust Laws David Strauss, The Living Constitution Cass Sunstein, A Constitution of Many Minds; One Case at a Time Ronald Dworkin, Law's Empire; Justice in Robes Randy Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution Larry Alexander, ed., Constitutionalism Possibly a few additional articles & excerpts Assignments (tentative): 2 papers and 1 oral presentation

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Tuesday 2:00 - 5:00 pm WAG 312

Examination information not available

Additional Information

Course Type


Smith, Tara A. Smith, Tara A.