SMNR: Jurisprudence of Sport

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
WED 3:45 - 5:35 pm TNH 3.127

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


Various sports can be seen as comprising distinct legal systems. Each sport, after all, has its own set of rules, many of which are written and some of which are unwritten. Sports thus present an array of issues that are worthy subjects for legal analysis. And since each sport has its own set of rules, sports are a ripe subject for comparative law analysis. We can look at how similar issues are addressed across different sports. 

Some issues present questions that are readily identifiable as legal in nature. The writing of a particular rule (say, what is a “catch” in football?  in baseball?) requires legal skills. More generally, how should the rule makers decide whether a standard be used (e.g., unnecessary delay) as opposed to a more objective measure (e.g., 25 seconds to serve in tennis); or whether a rule should include a state of mind requirement? What should the standard of review be for replay officials? Should replay even be allowed? If so, when? Should officials be given discretion (like prosecutors) in whether to call a penalty? Should the rules be applied at the end of the game the same as at the beginning?

Other issues are not so obvious. Rule violations have consequences (e.g., runner advances a base, five-yard penalty, free throw). Is it helpful to think of these as the cost of an infraction (think, breach of contract) or a sanction (think, criminal law)? What turns on this? Should a sport employ a no-harm, no-consequence regime or impose a cost/sanction regardless of whether there is any harm (e.g., free throw after a made shot in basketball)? How do we/should we think about gamesmanship, cheating, and sportsmanship? Should there be rules about the use of performance-enhancing drugs? If so, what is a performance-enhancing drug? And there’s lots more.

Grades for the seminar will be based on class presentations, participation in class discussion, and a substantial written paper.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

The Jurisprudence of Sport *
Mitchell Berman and Richard Friedman
West Academic
ISBN: 978-1-68467-890-7


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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
08/31/2021 New Course