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Amer Cts:Strctr,People, Proc (LAW-838-001)
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This seminar explores the factors that shape the structure and personnel and thus performance of United States courts, with a non-exclusive emphasis on federal courts. The broad topics examined, and particular aspects of each, include: - court organization and structure (e.g., why did Congress insist that the federal courthouse for the district of Maryland’s southern division be within five miles of the Montgomery and Prince George’s county border?); - how courts govern themselves (including the process for amending procedural and evidence rules) (e.g., what are the roles of chief judges, and does the office of the most important chief—the chief justice of the United States—have too much power?); - selection of judges (e.g., what impact, if any, have the increasingly contentious processes for nominating and confirming federal judges, and for selecting/electing state appellate judges, had on the nature and quality of the federal and state judiciaries?); - ethical guidelines for judges and mechanisms for dealing with judicial misconduct (e.g., did the Ninth Circuit judicial council deal appropriately with the Montana federal judge who used government equipment to send friends a racist email about President Obama?); - courts’ relations with other branches of government (e.g., should federal judges, who sometimes invalidate Congress’s work, be dependent on Congress for funds for court operations and judicial salaries?); - courts’ relations with the communications media in their many aspects (e.g., why won’t the U.S. Supreme Court allow video coverage of its oral arguments, as, for example, did the New Mexico Supreme Court in a recent case on whether the state constitution permits same-sex marriage?), and; - court performance and case management (e.g., what is the “local legal culture” and how does it influence how courts process litigation?). Basis for grades is class participation and three relatively brief multi-topic essays, as shown on the abbreviated syllabus. The three essay assignments are due shortly after the conclusion of each of the three parts of the seminar. Two sample topics are on the abbreviated syllabus. The essays require no research beyond the assigned readings and class discussion.
Textbooks and Other Materials
The textbook information on this page was provided by the instructor. Students should use this information when considering purchases from the AU Campus Store or other vendors. Students may check here to determine if books are currently available for purchase at the AU Campus Store.
The seminar does not use a standard textbook (there really is none for the material it covers). Instead, I will post readings on mywcl that include court decisions, articles, policy statements, statutes, news clips, and other sources, as well as descriptive and analytical material that I have prepared. Each week’s assignment is about 25 pages.
First Class Readings
Please review the complete course syllabus, pp. i-vi, of the posted readings.
The syllabus is available in the following format(s):