The Supreme Court, Law, and Public Policy


Learning how courts interpret policy has become an important component of the policymaker's toolkit. This course aims to introduce policy-oriented students to how Constitutional interpretation touches upon pressing policy questions. Students will engage with what courts expect to see from policymakers, while also learning how to read cases from a lawyer's perspective. Topics covered include federalism, LGBT rights, race and ethnicity, criminal justice issues, voting rights, and political questions and official immunity. Texts will include cases decided by the Supreme Court (including cases from recent terms), and also contemporary scholarship on judicial politics and decision making. Although our focus will be on the Supreme Court, the pedagogical emphasis will be on what policy makers can expect from the courts in terms of federal and state policy implementation. Our goal is that by the end of this course you will be able to: 1. Understand when federal courts will and will not intervene, particularly with regard to key policy and political issues 2. Think critically and assess the ability of courts to be used as instruments of social change 3. Understand what oversight, if any, the courts exercise over federal policy making, including by administrative agencies The course content is divided into four broad units, all of which are essential for understanding the courts' role in the promotion and interpretation of national policy. These are (1) federal courts, their nature, and their limited powers, (2) the courts' role in social movements and as "protectors" of individual rights and liberties, (3) political questions and immunity, and (4) the complicated relationship between courts and administrative agencies. Note: This course counts toward the undergraduate American Politics subfield.
Course Attributes: EN S; AS SSC

Section 01

The Supreme Court, Law, and Public Policy
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