Section Description Provided by Instructor
Law students read a lot of Supreme Court opinions, but see very few of the briefs and oral arguments that lead the Court to reach those decisions. Led by veteran Supreme Court practitioner Jay Lefkowitz, and modeled on Stanford Law School’s popular Supreme Court Simulation Seminar, this seminar is designed to fill that void by providing second- and third-year students with the opportunity to analyze, argue, decide, and draft their own opinions in significant cases that are currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. We expect several high-profile advocates with pending cases and one or more appellate judges to join the seminar for discussion and debate during the semester.
The 18 students in the seminar will be divided into two nine-member “courts,” and each student will be assigned the role of a particular Justice for the duration of the quarter. (We encourage students to select a Justice whose views they don’t typically share, but will do our best to honor all selections). Each week, one of the nine-member courts will hear oral arguments in a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. While hearing argument, each student is expected to play the role of his or her assigned Justice, and emulating as best as possible, the Justice’s judicial outlook based on an understanding of the Justice’s prior opinions and jurisprudential views. The arguments themselves will be presented by two students from the court that is not sitting that particular week, based on the briefs that actually were filed in the pending case (including selected amicus briefs).
Following the argument (approximately 40 minutes), the nine sitting Justices will “conference” the case -- again, in role -- while the non-sitting court, advocates, instructors, and guests observe (approximately 30 minutes). 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, the instructors, guests and students will engage in a broad discussion of what they just observed (approximately 40 minutes), including 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 opinion. The student writing the dissent will then have two weeks to circulate his or her response. 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 semester, then, each student will argue one case, sit on four or five cases, and draft at least one opinion.