Supreme Court Simulation Seminar


Course Code:
LAW 606
Law Honors/Pass/R credit/Fail


This seminar provides students with the opportunity to analyze, argue, hear oral arguments and draft opinions in cases that are currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. Professor Larry Marshall will serve as the instructor in the seminar, but many of the Law School's esteemed group of Supreme Court litigators will be participating in one or more of the sessions.nnThe 18 students in the seminar will be divided into two courts. One of these courts will sit five times and the other will sit four times. During each sitting, the court will hear arguments in a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. The cases chosen will provide a mix of constitutional and statutory issues, as well as a mix between criminal and civil cases. Each student will be assigned the role of a particular Justice for the entire quarter. Each student's task while sitting on cases is to do his or her best to understand that particular justice, based on that justice's prior opinions and judicial philosophy. In this sense, the seminar is intended to help promote insight into the role of judicial personality and philosophy within the decisional process. The weekly seminars will proceed as follows: In preparation for each week's session, all students (whether they are the two students arguing that week, the nine students judging that week, or the seven students observing that week) will read the lower courts' decisions, the briefs (the party briefs and selected amicus briefs) and the major precedents implicated. During the first portion of each week's session (approximately one hour), two of the students (who are members of the Court that is not sitting that week) will present oral arguments to the nine "justices" sitting that week. The arguments will be based on the briefs that were actually filed in the case. During the second segment of each week's session (approximately 45 minutes), the "justices" who are sitting that week will "conference" the case while the other non-sitting students, students who argued,instructors and guests will observe. Again, each student will be in the role of a particular justice. At the end of the "conference," the opinion-writing will be assigned to one "justice" in the majority and one "justice" in the dissent. During the final portion of each session (approximately one hour), theinstructors, guests and students will engage in a broad discussion of what they just observed. This may include analysis of the briefing, discussion about the oral argument, reflections on the "conference," and, more generally, a discussion about the case and its significance. After each class, the student assigned to draft the majority opinion will have two weeks to circulate a draft to the "Court." The student writing the dissent will then have two weeks to circulate his or her opinion. The other sitting "justices" can join one of these opinions, request some changes as a condition of joining, or decide to write separately. Over the course of the Quarter, then, each student will argue one case, sit on four or five cases, and draft at least one opinion.

Back to the Top