Federal Courts

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON, TUE, WED, THU 10:30 - 11:20 am TNH 3.124

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Final December 15, 2008 8:30 am A-Z in 2.124


This classic 4-credit course is a course in controversial material touching upon the activism of powerful courts. It is an advanced course in the structural Constitution of the United States and in public law. It is not a course in federal civil procedure. Because of the massiveness and complexity of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the problems the course raises, this course focuses on selected key topics. The aim of this condensed study remains to deepen the understanding of the American dual-law, dual-court system within a union of states under a federal government of separated but coextensive national powers. The course opens with an exploration of judicial federal lawmaking power, moving on to doctrines of supremacy and preemption. It considers the relation between sources of law and adjudicatory power. Against these backgrounds It deals with acute clashes of power, examining the powers of the federal and state courts to interfere with each other's jurisdiction; the powers of the political branches to control the judiciary; the power of American courts to trump legislatures; the power of the Supreme Court to trump state courts; the power of federal courts to try cases against both state and federal governments; and judicial power to govern by decree. Throughout, the emphasis is on public-law litigation; the remedial powers of federal courts; and constraints on exercises of judicial power. This course is recommended for students seeking to empower themselves to counsel and/or litigate in any area subject to federal governance: environmental and other administrative law, intellectual property (copyright and patent), broadcasting law, civil rights, constitutional law, securities regulation, employment law, social security, antitrust, admiralty, taxation, and so forth, or in areas on which federal law has certain preemptive impacts, like banking, pension, and insurance law; or in areas in which federal litigation occurs under state law, notably in environmental torts, mass disasters, and products liability. It is, of course, a required course for those interested in judicial clerkships, state or federal, and recommended 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 interesting to those who are concerned about political and social issues surrounding the work of federal courts. Finally, the course can provide a chance to gain some useful acquaintance with a range of areas of substantive federal law. (No prior knowledge of any area of federal law is needed or expected, except, of course, first-year constitutional law and civil procedure.) The readings are interesting classic or current Supreme Court cases arising across the spectrum of substantive areas of federal law. The casebook is Weinberg, Federal Courts (West Pub. Co. 1994), supplemented as needed. By arrangement with the publisher, at this law school the Weinberg casebook are made available below cost to UT law students, all proceeds to the Law School Foundation. [To obtain a new copy, see Kim Simpson, Room 3.118C.] Prerequisites: Because this course presumes a grounding in basic constitutional law, civil procedure, and tort law, enrollment is limited to second and third year students. The course may not be elected in the first year, or by a transfer student who has not completed basic courses in constitutional law, civil procedure, and torts.