| Judicial Politics
Y320 | 3298 | Hettinger
The provisions of the Constitution of the United States that create
the judiciary are very different from the provisions concerning the
legislative and executive branches. Appointments rather than elections,
life tenure rather than reelection, and limited resources distinguish the
judiciary from other branches. Do these differences insulate the judiciary
from political forces? Do these differences mean that judges are not
political actors? Even if judges act in political ways, is the judicial
branch able to shape public policy?
Federal and state courts in the United States play an important role
our political system and our legal system. The courts operate in a
political environment, thus they influence that environment and that
environment influences the courts. This course explores political
explanations of how the judicial system is structured and how it operates.
We will begin by looking at the structure of the American court
system from the trial level up through the appellate courts. The Supreme
Court of the United States may be the most political of all the courts and
we will place a special emphasis on the Supreme Court. We will examine the
political aspects of selecting and retaining judges and the evidence
concerning how selection procedures influence the judicial process. We will
also consider the role interest groups and other frequent litigants play in
the legal process. Political explanations of judicial decision-making are
very different from legal explanations of judicial decision-making. We will
explore different theories of judicial decision-making and how well they
explain the outcomes of cases. Finally, we will discuss the impact of court
activity on American society.
The requirements for the course include two examinations and one paper.
Exam 1 35% of the final grade
Exam 2 35% of the final grade
Paper 30% of the final grade
Lawrence Baum, American Courts [4th Edition]
Lawrence Baum, The Supreme Court [5th Edition]
Lee Epstein (Editor), Contemplating Courts
Additional readings will be assigned.