This course addresses the role of the federal courts in the American system of federalism and separation of powers, as well as their role in the development of substantive federal law and constitutional rights. A central premise of the course is that the institutional, political, and constitutional features of federal court litigation cannot be understood without engaging the historical context, especially the social, political, and legal movements, in response to which the federal courts have developed. Thus while many of the traditional aspects of federal court jurisprudence will be covered (e.g., federal common law including implied rights of action, justiciability doctrines and other doctrines of restraint, congressional power to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts and to create "legislative courts" outside of Article III, Supreme Court review of judgments, state sovereign immunity, litigating against the government, and federal habeas corpus), doctrine will be placed alongside interdisciplinary readings on social, political, and theoretical accounts that reveal how the courts and ordinary Americans have come to understand the distinctive role of the federal courts, as well as claims for expansion or contraction of their powers. The course is strongly recommended for students interested in pursuing a career in litigation and/or judicial clerkships in the federal courts. Elements used in grading: Class attendance, class participation, take home exam and short paper.
Instructors for this courseNorman W. Spaulding
Janet Cooper Alexander