Judicial Studies LLM

Curriculum and Faculty

The Duke Law master of Judicial Studies degree program consists of 24 credits, six of which are earned through the writing of a thesis based on original research. Each summer features four weeks of courses comprising nine credits, taken at Duke Law School. 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.

Core Courses

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.

Margaret H. 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 S. 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 S. 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

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.

Paul W. Grimm

David F. Levi Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of the Bolch Judicial Institute

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:

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 two-year course will focus on the study of the judiciary and will address empirical, biographical, and jurisprudential areas of inquiry. The first year will focus primarily on the critical analysis of various studies of the judiciary drawn from the existing literature, as well as a selection of previous theses from earlier cohorts of the MJS Program. The second year will focus on your thesis, and you will have the opportunity to share your proposed topic and approach and receive feedback from your fellow students.

Jack Knight

Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science

Supplementary Courses

Advanced Topics in Federal (and State) Jurisdiction

This extension of the traditional Federal Courts course provides an opportunity to consider a few areas of particular theoretical interest and practical concern, and where the Supreme Court has been particularly active in developing (and complicating) the law. Topics to be considered include standing in both federal and state court, qualified immunity for government officers, federal causes of action (express and implied), federal and state habeas corpus review, and aggregation mechanisms like class actions and multi-district litigation.

Ernest A. Young

Alston & Bird Professor of Law

Forensic Evidence

Science has never been more important to crime solving in the United States, with expanding crime labs, DNA databanks, and new crime scene technology. Yet never has the use of forensics been more controversial in the legal and scientific communities, with scientific reports critical of the research foundations of many forensic techniques and new Sixth Amendment and evidentiary challenges in the courts.  This course will examine the legal, scientific, and the practical questions raised by the use of forensic evidence in our legal system.

Brandon L. Garrett

L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law Director, Wilson Center for Science and Justice

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

Poverty Law and Policy

This course will provide an introduction to the relationship between law and poverty, including the relevance of doctrine, policy, and practice to the significant inequality in income, assets, and basic social goods that persists in the United States. We will consider historical and contemporary trends in domestic poverty, policy perspectives on social relief, the legal framework under which poverty-related claims have been adjudicated, and issues of federalism as they relate to poverty law and policy. We will also discuss emerging access to justice issues, including the role of judges in pro se cases and critiques of in forma pauperis procedures.

Sara Sternberg Greene

Professor of Law

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

Charles Ogletree, Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard University

Darrell Miller

Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Intellectual Life