Federal Courts


Course Code:
LAW 283
Law Honors/Pass/R credit/Fail


This course considers the role of the federal courts in the federal system. It is both an advanced course in constitutional law and a course on the institutional design of the federal courts. In the first aspect, we consider two great themes: the allocation of power between the states and the federal government — federalism — and the relationship between the federal courts and the political branches of the national government — separation of powers. In the other aspect, we focus on the structure of the judicial system, the scope and limits of federal judicial power, essential aspects of federal court procedure, and the evolving structural response of the federal courts to changes in technology, commerce, government, and a multitude of factors that affect the business of the federal courts and the role of federal judges. Topics will include the original and appellate jurisdiction of the federal courts, Supreme Court review of state court judgments, federal common law including implied rights of action, Congressional power to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts and to create adjudicative bodies within the federal government but outside the requirements of Article III, state sovereign immunity, justiciability, abstention and other doctrines of restraint, and the role of the federal courts in the war on terrorism. This course is highly recommended for students planning to practice in the federal courts, and many judges consider it essential preparation for a judicial clerkship. This course complements Constitutional Litigation (Law 641), and students, especially those who plan to clerk, will benefit from taking both courses. In-School: Three hour exam. During the exam students may consult course materials and notes prepared by them or students in this class, but not treatises (including Chemerinsky), commercial outlines, or student notes from past years or other schools. Elements used in grading: Class participation, attendance and final exam.

Past Offerings

2015-2016 Autumn

2014-2015 Autumn

Back to the Top