Supreme Court Simulation Seminar
Last offered in 2010-2011
This seminar provides students with the opportunity to analyze, argue, hear oral arguments and draft opinions in cases that are currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. The students in the seminar are divided into two courts. One of these courts sits five times and the other sits four times. During each sitting, the court hears arguments in a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. The cases chosen will provide a mix of constitutional and statutory issues, as well as a mix between criminal and civil cases. Each student is assigned the role of a particular Justice for the entire quarter. Each student¿s task while sitting on cases is to do his or her best to understand that particular justice, based on that justice¿s prior opinions and judicial philosophy. In this sense, the seminar is intended to help promote insight into the role of judicial personality and philosophy within the decisional process. The weekly seminars proceed as follows: In preparation for each week¿s session, all students (whether they are the two students arguing that week, the nine students judging that week, or the seven students observing that week) read the lower court¿s decisions, the briefs (the party briefs and selected amicus briefs) and the major precedents implicated. During the first portion of each week¿s session (approximately one hour), two of the students (who are members of the Court that is not sitting that week) present oral arguments to the nine ¿justices¿ sitting that week. The arguments will be based on the briefs that were actually filed in the case. During the second segment of each week¿s session (approximately 45 minutes), the ¿justices¿ who are sitting that week will ¿conference¿ the case while the other non-sitting students, students who argued, instructors and guests observe. Again, each student will be in the role of a particular justice. At the end of the ¿conference¿ the opinion-writing will be assigned to one ¿justice¿ in the majority and one ¿justice¿ in the dissent. During the final portion of each session (approximately one hour), the instructors, guests and students engage in a broad discussion of what they just observed. This may include analysis of the briefing, discussion about the oral argument, reflections on the ¿conference¿ and, more generally, a discussion about the case and its significance. After each class, the student assigned to draft the majority opinion will have two weeks to circulate a draft to the ¿Court.¿ The student writing the dissent will then have two weeks to circulate his or her opinion. The other sitting ¿justices¿ can join one of these opinions, request some changes as a condition of joining, or decide to write separately. Over the course of the quarter, then, each student argues one case, sits on four or five cases, and drafts at least one opinion.