Teaching Federal Courts: From Bottom Line to Mystery
Laura E. Little
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-79
St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 53, 2009
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
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
Date posted: October 7, 2008 ; Last revised: December 12, 2012