Seth W Greenfest
Focused, comparative examination of legal institutions.
As recent decisions regarding the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban and stem cell research attest, federal courts are involved in deciding important public policy questions. These decisions, and many more like them, have immediate impacts on individuals’ lives and on the trajectory of American politics.
Focusing on all three levels of federal courts – the United States District Courts, the United States Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court – this course will address the following questions: How do courts operate? How do they become venues through which individuals and groups work to answer policy questions? Why do court decisions sometimes have a great impact while others fail to cause social change? What is the relationship between the judicial, executive, and legislative branches?
Student learning goals
Students will become familiar with legal and political science scholarship on the federal courts.
Students will develop a working knowledge of the organization and operation of the courts, and become versed in how the courts participate in American politics as political institutions.
Students will develop research skills, learning how to access court cases and supporting materials through a variety of online tools.
General method of instruction
Lecture with discussion.
No prior knowledge of the court system is required.
Class assignments and grading
Assignments include a quarter-long research project, a midterm exam, and a final exam.