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Fall 2020 Seminar

Supreme Court Decision Making

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

How do supreme courts decide hard cases? How do they justify the results they reach by persuasive opinions? How do judges on multimember courts attempt to persuade other judges and to reach agreement when cases are hard? How can you write an opinion that not only justifies the result with acceptable reasons but attempts to persuade judges on the other side and to speak to the losing party to explain why they lost? This seminar will enable you to act as a supreme court justice, sit in conference, discuss cases, and write opinions (majority, concurring, and dissenting). Some of the cases will be current cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Others may have you sitting as a state supreme court deciding an issue of statutory interpretation or common law. We will discuss each case and one student will be assigned to write a proposed majority opinion for that case. After circulating that opinion, other students can write concurring and dissenting opinions and we will discuss the case a second time, using those written opinions as the basis for discussion. The goal is to practice persuasion, oral and written justification, and the art of collective judicial decision making.