Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke University School of Law
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Curriculum and Faculty

The degree program consists of 22 credits, four of which are earned through the writing of a thesis based on original research. Each summer features four weeks of courses comprising nine credits. Courses will vary depending on faculty and current events. Below is a list of the courses that are likely to be offered over a two-summer period:


Advanced Topics in Federalism – This course will explore the history and political theory of federalism, divergent models of federalism (e.g., dual federalism, process federalism, cooperative federalism), the relationship between federalism and political identity, and the role of courts in enforcing federalism, with some attention to comparisons with other federal systems in Europe, Canada, and Australia.

Maggie Lemos
Robert G. Seaks LL.B. ’34 Professor of Law and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty & Research
Ernest A. Young
Alston & Bird Professor of Law

American Constitutional Interpretation – This course examines enduring and recent issues in American constitutional interpretation. Topics include: (1) the basic forms of constitutional argument; (2) originalism and living constitutionalism; (3) originalism as living constitutionalism; (4) the legitimacy and meaning of Brown v. Board of Education; (5) the influence of political forces on judicial interpretations of the Constitution; (6) the dynamics of constitutional change; and (7) the importance (and limitations) of restraint in both the judiciary and the political branches. Case studies consider historic or current controversies over the national bank, gun rights, school desegregation, health care reform, and same-sex marriage.

Neil Siegel
David W. Ichel Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, and Director of the DC Summer Institute on Law and Policy

American Statutory Interpretation – This course will examine the practice of statutory interpretation in the U.S. legal system. The course will begin with the study of the basic approaches to statutory interpretation (intentionalism, purposivism, textualism, and pragmatism). Second, a distinctive feature of statutory interpretation by some state courts (methodological stare decisis) will be considered. Finally, a case study of a momentous question of statutory interpretation currently before the U.S. Supreme Court (in King v. Burwell, No. 14-114) will be conducted. 

Neil Siegel
David W. Ichel Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, and Director of the DC Summer Institute on Law and Policy

Analytical Methods – This course will focus on developing literacy in quantitative and formal analysis in the social sciences, including statistics, empirical evidence, and game theory. The course is designed for students without social science backgrounds and will provide a foundation for reading and interpreting statistics, studies, and other quantitative methods or evidence judges may encounter.

John de Figueiredo
Russell M. Robinson II Professor of Law, Strategy, and Economics

Constitutional Courts – This seminar will examine important constitutional issues that have arisen in recent Supreme Court cases and will use those cases as a vehicle for considering broader questions of constitutional interpretation and Supreme Court practice, such as theories of interpretation and the role of Stare Decisis. 

The Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
United States Supreme Court

Finance for Judges – The purpose of this course is to familiarize sitting judges with the latest developments in finance in general and corporate finance in particular. The goal is to provide judges with information that will allow them to better understand the reports and testimony of financial experts and to assess their credentials and evidence in judicial proceedings.

Elisabeth de Fontenay
Professor of Law

Judges’ Seminar – The purpose of this seminar is to examine how judicial institutions and individual judges approach particularly complex and interesting problems. The sessions also will present the opportunity to expand on judicial treatment of these problems in order to advance and expand conceptions and principles for the improvement of the judicial profession. This course includes guest speakers.

David F. Levi
Levi Family Professor of Law and Judicial Studies and Director of the Bolch Judicial Institute
Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas

Judicial History – This course will examine what history has to teach us about law and about the practice of judging through a close reading of the writings of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Benjamin N. Cardozo. Holmes is usually seen as one of the most consequential judges ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court, and Cardozo (who was Chief Judge of New York’s highest court before being appointed to succeed Holmes) is regularly called the greatest common law judge in American history. What sort of people were they, what sort of judges, and if in fact they deserve all the praise, in what did their greatness as judges lie?

H. Jefferson (Jeff) Powell
Professor of Law

Judicial Writing – Through this seminar, students will have the opportunity to study the opinion writing among today’s best judicial writers. Faculty who have taught this workshop:

The Honorable Antonin Scalia, United States Supreme Court
Judge Edward Carnes, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit
Bryan Garner, LawProse

Qualitative Research and the Judiciary – This course will provide an overview of qualitative methods of research, with a focus on conducting interviews. The course will begin by providing a general background of the strengths and limitations of qualitative methods, and then will survey various articles that rely on interviews and, to a lesser extent, ethnography to gather information. During each class students will meet with a different scholar who relies on qualitative methods in their work and discuss how the author came to undertake a particular study, their methodology, and their findings.

Marin Levy
Professor of Law

Study of the Judiciary – This course will focus on the study of the judiciary, and will address empirical, biographical, and jurisprudential areas of inquiry. Students will read papers and evaluate studies on many aspects of the judiciary. Teaching will be divided among scholars with various perspectives on the study of the judiciary, including those who criticize certain approaches to the general field.

Jack Knight
Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science|
Mitu Gulati
Professor of Law

Thesis Preparation – This includes discussions with thesis advisers, as well as opportunities to discuss thesis ideas with other students. Students will prepare a short but substantial proposal/introductory investigation into their thesis topic, which will be evaluated by other students and the thesis advisers.


Accuracy and Error in the Criminal Justice Process – Although most criminal defendants are properly found guilty of the crimes with which they are charged, in recent years a substantial number of persons have been found to be wrongly convicted.  This course will examine decision making in the various stages of the criminal justice process: from police to prosecutors, to judges and to juries. Recent bodies of research in the social sciences provide insights about where and how decisions go right and sometimes go wrong and how errors in one stage of the process can contaminate other stages. The course will discuss research bearing on such matters as the dynamics of false confessions, eyewitness errors, tunnel vision and system justification. Case studies from Duke Law School’s Wrongful Conviction Clinic will be used to illustrate these factors in action. Understanding of decision-making can improve process, including policy changes.

James Coleman, Jr.
John S. Bradway Professor of Law, Co-Director Wrongful Convictions Clinic, Co-Director Appellate Litigation Clinic
Theresa Newman
Charles S. Rhyne Clinical Professor of Law and Co-Director, Wrongful Convictions Clinic

Administrative Law and the Courts – This course will examine how judges review administrative agencies.  It will focus on the major doctrines that courts apply and consider empirical evidence regarding how those doctrines are applied in practice.  The course will pay particular attention to regulation focusing on science, technology, and economics.

Arti Rai
Elvin R. Latty Professor of Law

FinTech Law & Policy – Financial services have been dramatically impacted by the deep technology revolution. Transactions have become almost instantaneous thanks to new technologies like blockchain; we can apply for a mortgage on our smartphone and be approved within 48 hours; and cryptocurrency has become the latest investment trend. These new technologies and the companies that bring them to market are pushing the traditional boundaries of what it means to be a “bank.” Regulatory agencies have struggled to keep up with the pace of change, and there are significant regulatory and legal issues that remain unsettled. This course will inform you of the critical legal, regulatory, and policy issues associated with cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, peer-to-peer lending and more. In addition, you will learn how regulatory agencies in the U.S. are continually adjusting to the emergence of new financial technologies.

Lee Reiners
Lecturing Fellow and Executive Director, Global Financial Markets Center

Genetics, Neuroscience & the Law – This course will examine cutting-edge legal and policy issues arising from new discoveries in genetics and neuroscience. New gene editing technologies, behavioral genetics, and reproductive genetics challenge existing legal norms, create new concerns for regulatory oversight, and require new approaches to addressing novel conflicts that arise from these discoveries. Advances in neuroscience have led to fundamental challenges to the criminal justice system and undermine and require reorientation of many preexisting doctrines in law. The course is designed for students without a science background and will provide a foundation in the scientific advances and their implications for US law.

Nita Farahany
Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy

International Law in U.S. Courts – U.S. judges are confronted with international law in a variety of situations – forum non conveniens, choice of law, recognition of international judgments, etc. This course serves as an introduction into how international law can, in these situations, be properly understood and applied. It thus serves also as an introduction to comparative law for U.S. judges.

Problems in Self-Regulation – This course will examine areas of law that explore the benefits and problems with self-regulating professions. Particular attention will be paid to the medical profession, but emphasis will be on the general theme of how and when the state should delegate regulatory authority to private parties.

Barak Richman
Katharine T. Bartlett Professor of Law and Professor of Business Administration

Race and Civil Rights – This course will look at the intersection of race and the law from a theoretical, historical and practical point of view, with specific attention to the way constitutional norms respecting race, rights, and equality are enforced by courts against governmental and non governmental actors.

Guy-Uriel Charles
Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law
Darrell Miller
Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Intellectual Life

Strengths Become Vulnerabilities: The Downsides of Digitalization for the U.S. – This course will examine some elements of the way that digitalization is impacting law. The first session will explain the challenge of digitalization and analyze its impact on Constitutional law. The second session will explore how digitalization is impacting the United States in international law and policy, and how the U.S. law and norms render the United States unusually susceptible to damaging operations inside the United States by our adversaries.

Jack Goldsmith
Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard Law School