In this course, we take a hard look at some major structural features of the American legal system, with inevitable spill-over into features of law in modern democratic states more generally. We will be concerned with both doctrine and the conceptual underpinnings of doctrine. Our topics will likely include: Marbury and justiciability; the special case of the political question doctrine and the adjuncts of judicial deference and underenforcement; congressional control of jurisdiction; multi-judge courts, modern Supreme Court practice, and the doctrinal paradox; the 11th Amendment; civil rights jurisdiction; the interaction of state and federal courts and state and federal official conduct more generally; abstention; and habeas corpus.
The course will provide a valuable foundation for anyone who plans to clerk in either the federal judicial system or in the courts of a state, and for anyone whose professional plans will include or touch upon modern litigation. But beyond that, it aims to offer interested students a sophisticated look at the adjudicatory bones of our legal system.
Ideas and arguments are what matter most; as a result, classroom exchange is a central element of the course, and participation will inflect grades. The examination will be a floating exam, designed in the hope that it will actually be interesting.