The Study of Judicial Behavior

The Study of Judicial Behavior

Credits: Two credits with an optional Third credit for an empirical research paper. This is a year-long class and will meet every other week.

This course will examine the questions of how judges behave and why -- the factors that determine judicial behavior. In conducting this examination, we will draw from a wide variety of scholarship on the question of judicial behavior, including political science, economics, sociology, and law. And we will look at a wide variety of court systems, including the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, the state courts of last resort, and the appellate courts of other countries. We will read the leading works in the field of judicial behavior, all of which tackle the question: What determines the behavior of judges?

During the course, we will endeavor to bring in at least four of five guest speakers who will either present their own views or react to the discussion we are having – these guests will be either academics or judges. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito has agreed to attend one session.

In order to facilitate a large amount of student participation, the course will consist of weekly discussions of the reading, each led by a student. The person responsible for that day's discussion must turn in a critical review of the reading along with some potential topics for discussion to us by 5pm the Friday before that particular class meets. In addition to the short papers, you will be expected to complete a conference-quality paper for presentation to the class. Students who opt for the three credit option will do an empirical project – that can be either qualitative (talking to judges, surveying them or their clerks or other staff members in the court) or quantitative (collecting data on the courts).

This course may satisfy the writing requirement if the optional empirical research paper is completed.
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