Federal Courts

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON, TUE, WED, THU 10:30 - 11:20 am TNH 3.129

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Final May 9, 2013 8:30 am A-Z in 2.138


This is the classic course in Federal Courts. It is a big-picture course, systemic and structural rather than procedural. The aim of the course is to open to students a sophisticated and penetrating understanding of the peculiarities and pathologies of the American two-court two-law system, and of the powers, often controversial, of the judiciary. This particular section is taught by a student of the originator of the course, Henry Hart. Professor Weinberg twice chaired the Federal Courts Section of the Association of American Law Schools, is author of a book on Federal Courts, has published classic law review articles in the field, and has written the Oxford Encyclopedia of Legal History article on Federal Courts. The course opens with a consideration of the powers of courts to fashion federal law, the clashes between federal and state laws, and doctrines of supremacy and preemption. There follows extensive coverage of the clash between courts and government, seen in federal litigation against government, doctrines of sovereign immunity, federal actions for damages against government officials at all levels, and, ultimately, actions against government officials for injunctions -- the power to "govern by decree." The course goes on to examine the clash between federal and state courts, and the powers of federal courts to interfere with state litigation through the use of injunction. The readings are in Supreme Court cases, current and classic, intrinsically worth a student's time, reflecting background systemic understandings widely shared among American lawyers. No prior knowledge of federal substantive law is assumed. Rather, a side benefit of these readings is the introduction they provide to a variety of areas of substantive federal law. The course will be as useful to informed counseling as it will to those interested in litigation. It is key preparation, of course, for those seeking clerkships, federal or state. It is also obviously helpful to those planning to spend a few years in government or administrative practice; and for those interested in academia. More immediately, the course provides solid footing for the federalized upper-class curriculum essential to the option of a first-class practice. Prerequisites: This course is limited to upperclass law students. Because the course presumes a basic grounding in American tort law, American constitutional law, and American civil procedure, it is also closed to any student who has not completed these elements of a standard first year of American legal education. Four hours.