Political Science 331(01)
Courts and Public Policy
Rhode Island College
This syllabus outlines the requirements for the course. Your continued registration for the course implies your acceptance of its provisions.
Instructor: Dr. Thomas Schmeling
Office: Craig-Lee 219
Office Hours (subject to change): Mon & Wed 1:00-2:30 Tue & Thu 11:00-12:00. Other times by appointment.
email: email@example.com (note: I prefer email to phone communications. I will send all class communications to your ric.edu email address. Emails from ric.edu will be read. Emails from other hosts may be tagged as spam and missed. Please used "pol202' in the subject line. Do NOT use webCT to send me mail.)
Do courts make policy? According to a conventional understanding, policy is made by legislatures, executives and bureaucrats, while courts simply decide legal disputes between parties. Courts may apply policies formulated by others, but they don't, or at least shouldn't, make policy. In this understanding, law is divorced from politics.
However, reflection on the Supreme Court's decisions in Roe v. Wade (abortion) or Brown v. Bd. of Education (school desegregation) or Miranda v. Arizona (police conduct) is enough to make it clear that courts do in fact make policy decisions, often extremely momentous ones. Moreover, they do so in many less visible policy areas such as divorce law or school finance In fact, as Toqueville noted more than 150 years ago, scarcely any political question arises in the U.S. that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question".
In this course we will examine the role of courts in formulating and applying public policy. In doing so, we will look not only at what makes courts policy-makers, but also at the unique institutional features of courts that make them different from other policy makers, and the effects those features have on the process of judicial policy making, on the content of judicial policies, and the impact of those policies on those people the policies are directed to.
2 books will be available for purchase at the College Bookstore. These texts are required; each student must have a copy.
Lawrence Baum, American Courts, Houghton Mifflin 2001
Walter Murphy, C. Herman Pritchett, Lee Epstein and Jack Knight Courts, Judges and Politics (6th ed). Mc-Graw-Hill 2006.
Supplementary materials and cases will be handed out in class, posted on the web, or placed on library reserve. These should also be regarded as required readings. If you miss a class, you are responsible for obtaining and reading these materials before the class for which they are assigned. I suggest that you and another student in the class agree to pick up materials when one of you is absent.
The website for cases and readings will be www.ric.edu/tschmeling/courses/331.html.
attendance, preparation AND PARTICIPATION
Student participation in class discussions is essential to the success of the course. Your participation grade measures your contribution to the class. Please note that this portion of your grade is for attendance and participation. Attendance is required, but there is no grade for good attendance- showing up is simply the prerequisite for participation. Each student may miss two classes without penalty. Thereafter, your participation grade will be reduced 10% for each unexcused absence. Absences will be excused only in the case of documented illness or emergency.
Intelligent participation requires preparation. You are expected to have read each session's assignment before class and to be prepared to ask and answer questions based on the readings. Any student who has a disability or special difficulty meeting this requirement should see the instructor as soon as possible. Especially when we are reading cases, I will make frequent reference to the text. You should also bring the assigned text to class with you each day.
Participation will be graded as follows:
A=Frequent and consistent participation in discussions, showing solid preparation.
B=Regular, prepared participation
C=Participated sometimes, but not often.
F=Never or almost never participated
There will be 2 examinations. A midterm near the middle of October and the Final Exam. The exact date of the midterm will be fixed within 2 weeks of the exam. The final examination will be on the date scheduled by the College registrar. Individual exams will be rescheduled only in the event of a documented medical or other emergency or a conflict with a legitimate academic requirement. Students who have a scheduling conflict should see me as soon as possible.
3. Application and analysis papers
You will write a paper of 8-10 double-spaced pages exploring how courts have made policy related to an issue of your choice. I will give you detailed instructions for the papers early in the semester. This paper will be due before the end of the semester and I hope to reserve time in our last week or two for students to present the results of their research to the class
THE GRADING SCHEDULE FOR THE CLASS IS AS FOLLOWS:
Midterm exam 30%
Final exam 30%
Courts and Public Policy
Wed 9/6 Introduction to the Course
Mon 9/11 Types and Sources of Law/ Court Structure and Jurisdiction: Federal Courts
Baum Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 to page 39 (to state court systems)
MPEK Ch. 1 pp. 1-11, § 1.3
Carson v. Nat'l Bank
Tragedy May be First Test of New Federal Law
Wed 9/13 Court Structure and Jurisdiction Continued: State Courts
Baum Ch. 2 pp. 40-52
MPEK Ch. 3 Intro. pp. 90-96 ( to ‘issuing injunctions’) & §§ 3.8
Calder v. Jones
Sherburne County v. Kennedy
Mon 9/18 The Legal Model: Common Law and Stare Decisis I
MPEK Ch. 10 Introduction and § 10.1 also §1.1 (Blackstone)
Cases on Manufacturer's Liability for Negligence (handout and on web)
MPE §10.3 Macpherson v. Buick Motor Co.
MPE §§ 1.4, 10.2
Wed 9/20 The Legal Model: Common Law and Stare Decisis II
MPEK §§ 1.4, 1.5
State v. Minster
State v. Pine
MPEK §§ 10.5 & 10.7 (move 10.6 to attitudinal)
Mon 9/25 The Legal Model: Statutory Interpretation I
MPEK Ch. 11 pp. 477-87
MPE §11.2 (Smith v. US)
McBoyle v. US
Wed 9/27 The Legal Model: Statutory Interpretation II
Federated Distributors v. Johnson
MPE 11.1, 11.4, 11.5
Cabral v. INS
Mon 10/2 The Legal Model: Constitutional Interpretation I
MPEK Ch. 12 Intro (pp. 539-58)
MPEK §§ 12.2, 12.4, 12.8, (review 3.8)
Wed 10/4 The Attitudinal Model I
Baum pp. 273-280, 298-301
MPEK § 10.6
Additional Reading TBA
Mon 10/9 Columbus Day- No Class
Wed 10/11 The Attitudinal Model II
Mon 10/16 Strategic Models
Baum pp. 280-84
MPEK §§ 8.2, 13.7
Baum pp. 284-89
MPEK Ch. 8 Into (pp.329-44) §§ 8.7, 8.9
Wed 10/18 Comparing the Models (& review for exam)
MPEK §§ 8.3, 2.4, 2.5, 10.6 (pp. 476-83 only), 10.8,
Excerpt from Schmeling (2006)
Mon 10/23 Exam
Wed 10/25 Individual student meetings to discuss paper topics
Mon 10/30 Judicial Selection (State)
Baum Ch. 4 pp. 107-128
MPEK Ch. 4 pp. 152-59 (Skim), § 4.8, §4.9
New York Times article (attached)
Wed 11/1 Judicial Selection (Federal)
Baum Ch. 4 pp. 95-107
MPEK Ch. 4 pp. 141-152 (skim), §§4.1, 4.2 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7
Handouts on Supreme Court Nomations in 2005
Mon 11/6 Trial Courts- Criminal Trials & Juries
Baum Ch. 6 (to p. 185 only)
MPEK §§9.2 , 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 9.6 and 9.7
VIDEO: Inside the Jury Room
Wed 11/8 Trial Courts- Civil Trials
Baum Ch. 7 pp. 204-214 only
Handouts on Tort Law
Mon 11/13 Civil Trials- A Litigation Crisis?
Baum Ch. 7 pp. 214-end
Handouts on the "litigation explosion"
Wed 11/15 Appellate Procedure
Baum Ch. 8
Mon 11/20 The Impact of Judicial Policies
Baum Ch. 9
MPEK 14.5, 14.6
Wed 11/22 Topic TBA
Mon 11/27 Evaluating Judicial Policymaking- Activism & Independence
Handouts on Judicial Activism
Handouts on Judicial Independence and Attacks on Courts
Wed 11/29 Attorneys
Baum Ch. 3
MPEK 5.1, 5.3, 5.4
Subin, The Criminal Lawyer's Different Mission (handout)
Assoc. Press, Public Defenders Now Coming With a Cost
Glater, High Tuition Debts and Low Pay Drain Public Interest Law
Mon 12/4 Litigation Strategies and Campaigns
MPEK Chapter 6 pp. 253-77 §§ 6.4, 6.5, 6.6
Taylor, Guns and Tobacco
Additional Handouts TBA
Mon 12/11 Student Paper Presentations
Wed 12/13 Student Paper Presentations