|Political Science 417|
NOTE: This syllabus is subject to minor changes during the semester.
Courts and legal actors are of often the target of much comment and criticism, and calls for reforms to the justice system are a regular feature of American politics. Unfortunately, our image of the courts and the legal system comes largely from the popular media ("The Practice"or "First Monday" or "The People's Court") or from news reports of the unusual and spectacular cases (which are also the kinds of cases carried by Court TV). What do courts (and lawyers) actually do on a day in and day out basis? Are Americans lawyer and lawsuit crazy? How do we go about answering these kinds of questions systematically? What role do we want the courts to play? These are some of the types of questions we will explore throughout the semester. More specifically, we will look at the functions of courts; the historical development of the American court system and its current structure; the people that make up the court system; judicial decision-making; and the impact of court activity. Pervading all the specific questions will be the fundamental point that the judicial system is political and we must understand it as such.
While our focus will be on courts, the goals of the course go beyond simply imparting factual information about this one aspect of the American political system. My primary goal is to advance your general analytical skills: how does one go about asking important questions? how does not go about seeking answers? how does one weigh inconsistent and conflicting information? how does one make choices when answers are not clear-cut, or when there really is no answer?
Course requirements serve both evaluative and pedagogical purposes. For example, while the term paper will count significantly toward the course grade, its purpose is more educational than evaluative. The specific requirements for this course (in addition to assigned readings) are:
Two midterm examinations
Participation in a Supreme Court Oral Argument simulation
Term paper (including a written paper proposal)
The midterm exams will consist primarily of essay questions; the questions will require you to demonstrate your analytic skills, drawing on the substantive material from the course, in a preset context. Before the two midterms, I will make available a list of essay questions from which I will select questions for the exam. Students often how they should study for my exams. What I suggest is that you begin preparing for the exam from the first lecture. This involves reviewing the notes you took during lecture soon after the lecture and summarizing the major points, themes, issues in a paragraph or two. These summaries then become the focal point of your exam preparation. Similar summaries can be done for the readings.
We will hold simulated oral arguments for four cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. The tentative list of cases (as of early December--the list may change depending on what the Court accepts for argument in December and January)::
The second week I will ask each student to provide me with a preference list for both cases and roles. The roles will be attorney for the petitioner, attorney for the respondent, and justice (I will play the role of Chief Justice). For each case there will be a team of 4 attorneys for each side and 4 or 5 justices (assigned randomly to be conservative, moderate, or liberal). I may choose to have one or two students appear representing the Solicitor General's office as "friends of the court" (amicus curae) for all of the cases listed above except for the first case where the respondent is represented by the Solicitor General.
The responsibilities of the attorneys will be to prepare an oral argument. Each time should meet and split up the argument into logical pieces based on their analysis of the case; each attorney on the time should be assigned one aspect of the argument to research and prepare (some initial research will be necessary to come up with a way to analyze the case). Each attorney should come to the oral argument with a detailed outline (3-5 pages) of the argument he or she wishes to make. The team should prepare a one to two page memo explaining who has responsibility for each of the issues identified.
The responsibilities of the justices is to identify the key questions that a justice of his or her ideology would be most concerned about. Each justice should prepare a "bench memo" of 3-5 pages outlining what the justice thinks the key issues and the questions the justice will want the attorneys to address. Justices with a common perspective may work together in doing research, but each justice must prepare his or her own bench memo.
Each attorney will get approximately 8 minutes to present his/her argument. Before the argument starts, one member of the team should give the justices the memo showing how the team has divided the argument and briefly (2 or 3 minutes) explain it to the justices. Attorneys should not simply read from their outlines.
The justices may interrupt at any time to ask questions; justices should take care to direct their questions to the attorney whose responsibility aligns most closely with the question. If a justice has a question that does not clearly align with any attorney's subtask, that question may be directed to any attorney; the attorney may tell the justice that one of the attorneys yet to speak will address that issue.
Copies of the memos showing the division of the tasks, the oral argument outlines, and the bench memos must be given to the Chief Justice at the beginning of the session.
The team representing the petitioners position will present its argument first; followed by the respondent. If the Solicitor General's office is appearing as amicus curae, the SG's representatives will speak last.
The oral arguments will be presented in four separate sessions the week of March 5. Two of these will be during the regular class periods on Monday and Wednesday (to allow sufficient time, the classes will start early those days at 8 am rather than 8:25), and two will be in the evening, one Monday evening and one Tuesday evening (sessions starting at 7:15 and running until approximately 9:00 pm).
Grading of the oral argument exercise will be based on the combination of the oral presentation and/or the memo/outline prepared. For justices, the grade will be based primarily on the bench memo; for lawyers it will be based almost entirely on the oral presentation.
An oral argument resource web page containing links and other resources in connection with the oral argument exercise is available, and will be updated as materials become available.
The purpose of a term paper is for you to develop and employ a combination of research and reasoning skills. Within the context of this course, it also provides a way for you to show that you are able to apply and work with the material covered during the semester. Thus, in choosing a topic, researching that topic, and writing your paper, you need to keep in mind that in grading the paper I will be considering all three of the above elements (the quality of the research, the quality of the reasoning skills you display in the paper, and the ways in which the paper relates to the course material). I expect term papers to be analytic, as opposed to simply descriptive; by "analytic," I mean that the term papers should seek to explain or understand something, and not just to describe it. Papers that simply describe a phenomenon or which simply summarize someone else's ideas are unacceptable.
To insure that you are at least starting your paper in a direction that should lead to an acceptable result, a typed one page (i.e., one side-, single-spaced is okay) paper proposal is due on February 14 (be sure to put your name in the upper right-hand corner). I will comment on the proposal and return it marked as "ok," "?," or "no." A proposal that I mark "?" needs some clarification; you must revise it and resubmit it for review. If I mark it "no" that indicates that it is not acceptable and you must submit a proposal for a different topic to me for review. If you fail to turn in a proposal, or fail to get an "ok'ed" proposal, you are risking a reduced grade, and quite possibly a failing grade, on your term paper. If you change your topic, you must submit a new proposal for approval.
The substance of the paper is limited in only two ways:
I am looking for an element of creativity in the papers; "book report"
type papers that simply summarize books, journal articles, or materials you
located on the World Wide Web are not likely to give me much indication of your
analytic skills. I expect you to demonstrate that you have thought critically
about the materials you rely upon. By thinking critically, I mean asking yourself
questions such as what has the author not told us, how does this compare to
information from other sources, how does this fit with one or more theoretical
frameworks for considering the phenomenon of interest?
Your topic should be narrowly drawn and clearly focussed; AVOID BROAD TOPICS like the "death penalty," or "plea bargaining," or "juvenile justice," or the "role of the Supreme Court" (more specific topics within a broad area may be acceptable). Your paper should be approximately 1,500 to 2,000 words (approximately 5 to 7 pages) in length; shorter or longer papers are acceptable but the quality of the work should be such as to justify the departure from the 1,500 to 2,000 word norm. I have posted a list of past term paper topics that students have chosen in past years; if you are unsure about the kind of paper I am seeking, refer to this list and/or come in and discuss your ideas during office hours with me.
It is very tempting to rely solely on the internet as a research tool. However, simply typing a phrase (or a number of phrases) into Google does not constitute adequate research. Both the advantage and disadvantage of the World Wide Web is that virtually anyone can post virtually anything on the Web. The Web can be a very good place to start, but it is absolutely necessary to go beyond Web.
There is an important distinction between material simply posted on the Web and material available via the Web. Increasingly, journals and books that previously could only be accessed in the library building are available electronically. A key difference between scholarly journals (and scholarly books) and other material available via the internet is that scholarly materials have typically been subject to some type of "peer review" process to assess their validity and significance. So, by saying you must go beyond the World Wide Web, I am not necessarily saying that material has to be accessed in a library.
To assist you in identifying research resources I have arranged for one of the reference librarians from the Law Library to come to class on February 28. She will review online resources, research strategies, and hardcopy resources relevant to the types of topics appropriate for papers in this course.
There are some excellent sources on the World Wide Web for locating other materials (e.g., the abstract database at ncjrs.org, or the Social Science Index and the Index of Legal Periodicals available electronically through the UW Library website . A variety of specific sources and search tools can be found at http://library.law.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/wp2html?judprocess.wpd. Sometimes these sources provide a link to full articles available online. More often these sources provide only an abstract (or brief summary) of an article. It is not adequate to rely simply on an abstract; you need to review the complete article.
The quality of the writing in outside of class assignments (e.g., the term paper) will have a significant impact on my evaluation. If you are unsure about your writing skills, get assistance at the Writing Lab (6171 Helen C. White Hall) early in the semester. You should carefully proofread your paper before turning it in; do not simply rely on your word processor's spell checker. I know from prior experience that careless spelling and sloppy presentation distracts me.
Term papers are due at at class on Monday, May 7. I hope to return papers at the final quiz. I give extensions for papers only in cases of documented illness or family emergency; late papers will be subject to a grade penalty.
Occasionally students have come to me and asked to be allowed to rewrite a paper because of dissatisfaction with the grade the paper received; I do not permit rewrites. You are encouraged to come in and talk to me about your paper as it develops or to ask me to look over an outline. If you would like me to read and comment on a draft, I am happy to do so, but you must allow a week for turnaround (it may be quicker, but if I get swamped by drafts, I don't want to overcommit); this means that you should give me a draft by April 25 if you want to have time to do a revision before the due date.
If you are considering combining the paper for this course with one for another course you must obtain my explicit approval and that of the other instructor before starting work.
The grading in this course will be fundamentally subjective. The basic grading scale is the following:
A a thorough understanding of the course material and an ability to use and
apply the material in a creative and interesting fashion.
B a thorough understanding of the course material.
C a less than thorough understanding of the course material.
D a passing acquaintance with the course material.
F no evidence of any knowledge of the course material.
I DO NOT GIVE INCOMPLETES FOR THE COURSE, except in rare cases of documented illness or family emergency. STUDENTS WHO DO NOT COMPLETE THE COURSE REQUIREMENTS WILL NOT RECEIVE A PASSING GRADE. One "exception" to the incomplete policy is for students who have borrowed books or articles from me; I do not turn in a grade until all materials have been returned.
The course grade will be based on four components in the following proportions:
Midterms (2) 25% each
Final Quiz 10%
Oral Argument 15 %
Term Paper 25%
I do take attendance, and poor attendance can result in a reduction in the grade; if you arrive in class after attendance has been taken, it is your responsibility to let me know that you were in class.
The class meets two times a week for 75 minutes. I have more than enough material to fill our class sessions with lectures. While I will tend to start with lecture material, I would like the class to operate in a "lecture-discussion" format: my lectures are interruptible for questions, arguments, tangents, etc. (although I may want to finish a point or two before taking up the question).
The class starts at 8:25. If you arrive after class has begun, you must find a seat that does not require you to disturb students where were present when class started.
As noted above, I do take attendance.
I encourage students to take advantage of office hours, whether to discuss a term paper idea of some issue or question the class might have raised. (I have a terrible memory for names, so please be patient if I have to ask you your name several times before I remember it.) Tentatively, my office hours will be Monday 1:15-2:15 and Wednesday 10-11; I will schedule additional hours around the time the term paper proposal is due and in the two weeks just before the paper itself is due. I am happy to make appointments to meet students at other times that are mutually convenient.
I actually tend to stay logged into the e-mail system whenever I am in my office and much of the time when I am working at home. The result is that I can often respond very quickly to e-mail questions. My e-mail address is HKRITZER@WISC.EDU.
Students desiring honors credit for Political Science 417 must complete a
bibliographic essay in addition to the other course requirements. Graduate students
must complete a bibliographic essay and their research papers must represent
graduate level work. Both honors and graduate students should see me for more
specifics on what I expect.
The electronic syllabus on my web site constitutes a homepage for this course. The electronic version of the syllabus has (or will have) links to lecture outlines, sample exam questions, and other material. When you access those materials, be sure to check the "last revised date" to be sure the material has been updated for the current year. The URL for the page is:
Many of the readings for this course will be drawn from the list of books below; the books are available at the University Bookstore and the Underground Book Exchange..
Additional readings will come from the list of journal articles and sections of books listed below. All of the readings listed are available electronically through links shown for the relevant articles on the assignments shown below. In order to conform with copyright law, many of the items are password-protected PDF files. The password will be distributed in class.
Finally, we will be reading three Supreme Court decisions to be determined.
One last point regarding the readings; to some degree, the quantity of readings is not well balanced from week to week. I urge you to do your own balancing by reading ahead during weeks when assignments are light.
|1 Jan. 22||
Courts, Controversies, and Politics
|2 Jan. 29||Law|
|3 Feb. 5|| |
Supreme Court Overview: Video:
"This Honorable Court" (Part II)
|4 Feb. 12||
|5 Feb. 19||
Decision-Making: The Evidence
PAPER PROPOSALS DUE, FEBRUARY 21
|6 Feb. 26||
Monday, MIDTERM EXAM
A review session will be scheduled for Sunday evening, 7:15-9:00 pm
Wednesday: Library resources for term papers; Group Meetings
|7 Mar. 5||
Oral Arguments Presented.
Monday, 8:00-9:55 am, location TBA
|8 March 12||
|9 March 19||State Supreme Courts and Intermediate Appellate Courts||Baum, 249-268 |
|10 March 26||
|11 April 9||
||Baum, 204-248 |
Kritzer, case screening article
Kritzer and Krishnan, case source article
|12 April 16||
A review session will be scheduled for Tuesday evening
MIDTERM II, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18
Kritzer et al, winning and losing article
Kritzer, contingency fee article
Cohen and Smith report
|13 April 23||Criminal Justice I: Introduction
Video: "Real Justice" (Part I)
|Baum, 156-203 |
Rosett & Cressey chapter
Nardulli et al. article
|14 April 30||Criminal Justice II: Discretion,
Players, and Groups|
Video: "Real Justice" (Part II)
Kalvin and Zeisel chapter
|TERM PAPER DUE, AT CLASS, MONDAY, MAY 7|
|15 May. 7||
|EXAM REVIEW: Friday, May 18, time TBA|
|FINAL QUIZ, SATURDAY, MAY 19, 7:45 a.m.|