Teaching Federal Courts: From Bottom Line to Mystery

15 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2008 Last revised: 12 Dec 2012

See all articles by Laura E. Little

Laura E. Little

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law


Despite compelling reasons to take a course in Federal Courts, many students run from the subject. This article outlines five pedagogical antidotes to counteract this tendency to flee: (1) bottom line practicality; (2) current events; (3) story telling; (4) taxonomy; and (5) mystery. The antidotes are designed to make the course appealing, and to transport students to a sophisticated level of learning and understanding. A Federal Courts course should acquaint students with structural issues in the Constitution, introduce profound debates about the optimum organization for government, offer practical knowledge about federal litigation, render students expert in reading Supreme Court opinions, and initiate them in rhetorical devices useful where human interaction calls for subtlety. This paper explores ways students may enhance their learning using paradigms and taxonomies, while developing students' appreciation for internal contradictions and ambiguities in legal doctrine as well as unstated partisan or ideological motives of the justices.

Keywords: Federal Courts, Education, Pedagogy, Taxonomy, Paradigm, Indeterminacy, Ideological motives, current events, federal jurisdiction, United States Supreme Court

JEL Classification: H77, K10, K19, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Little, Laura E., Teaching Federal Courts: From Bottom Line to Mystery. Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-79; St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 53, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1276524

Laura E. Little (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8955 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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