Amer Cts:Strctr,People, Proc (LAW-838-001)
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This seminar explores the structures, processes, and people of American judicial systems, with some (but hardly exclusive) emphasis on the federal courts. It should be of special interest to those who anticipate working in the courts temporarily as law clerks or regularly as litigators or judges. The seminar looks beyond formal and legalistic explanations for court organization and operations to consider also cultural, social, and political factors that affect courts in practical terms. More specifically, it considers the processes and institutions that shape the national federal rules of procedure and local variations. It analyzes the various methods by which state and federal judges are selected and the roles of executive officials, legislators, the bar, interest groups, sitting and would-be judges, and, in many cases the voting public—and the impact of selection processes on the make-up and behavior of the judiciary. The seminar examines the ethical rules that govern judges and the mechanisms for dealing with allegations of judicial misconduct and disability. It asks how the courts deal with legislators (who fund and, to a degree, govern them), and with the press and social media, usually the principal means by which the public learns (or doesn’t learn) what courts do. Finally, it explores the reasons for changes in recent years in how trial and appellate courts dispose of the cases before them, including the decline in the number and proportion of trials and of traditional appellate procedures.
I ask each class member to select a federal district court to provide specific focus on the seminar themes.
Grading is based on three essays responding to assigned topics based on the readings (not outside research) and class discussion, and participation in 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 to determine if books are currently available for purchase online.
The seminar does not use a standard textbook. Instead, I will post for download materials I have developed, which include excerpts of scholarly and popular articles, cases, legislation, as well as substantial amounts of original text and illustrative tables and charts that I have developed and update for the seminar.
First Class Readings
The first class will provide an overview of the course elements, requirements, and grading policy; no advance reading is necessary for the first day.