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:
Scholars’ Seminar – In this course, visiting scholars will present their work to the students. Each class session will feature a different, highly regarded legal scholar who has studied the judiciary. Students will be assigned in small groups to one class where they will be responsible for preparing a response to the presenter’s paper and leading the class in discussion with the presenter following the actual presentation. We anticipate that the scholars will cover a range of different topics and techniques – from biography to quantitative analysis – but that all of the papers will relate to the study of judicial institutions.
Judges’ Seminar – Similar in structure to the Scholars’ Seminar, this course will focus on presentations by visiting judges who have had particularly unique experiences in their careers or courtrooms. For example, a prominent judge who has handled a high-publicity mass tort case would present on that experience and lead a discussion with students on how future similar cases might be handled based on that experience. Other examples include long-term international disputes, novel national security cases (Guantanamo, FISA), coping with large caseloads and diminished resources, etc. The purpose of these sessions would be to examine how judicial institutions and individual judges approach particularly complex or interesting problems. The sessions may suggest topics for further study, perhaps in the master’s thesis.
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.
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.
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. Topics include the time value of money, valuation techniques, capital market efficiency, behavioral finance, options, derivatives, corporate capital structure, governance, and control transactions. The goal is to provide judges with information that will allow them to better understand reports and testimony of financial expert witnesses and to assess their credentials and evidence in Daubert Motions and related judicial proceedings.
Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation – This course will examine how judges do and should interpret statutes and constitutions, both in theory and in practice. Part of the course will focus on theories of statutory and constitutional interpretation, and part of the course will focus on empirical studies of how judges interpret statutes and constitutional texts in practice.
Institutions – This course will examine research on the design of optimal legal and judicial institutions. Topics covered will include the impact of different institutional structures (e.g., elected versus appointed judiciaries or common law versus civil law) on matters such as economic growth rates or levels of litigant satisfaction. In contrast to the Comparative Courts course mentioned above, where the focus will be more substantive, the focus here will be on the optimal design of key structural features.
Judicial Writing Workshop – Through this workshop, students will have the opportunity to study the opinion writing of judges famous for great writing. They will hear from visiting judges who are among today’s best judicial writers. Finally, they will have the opportunity to submit one of their own opinions anonymously for evaluation by a workshop group in the class.
Advanced Research Methods – This short course will expand on the topics covered in the first year’s Methods course, examining in particular some of the techniques that students might want to use in their thesis papers. This will be the occasion to consider whether a particular topic lends itself to empirical analysis, and, if so, of what kind (quantitative, survey, or other).
Thesis Preparation – This short course will include meetings with the student’s thesis adviser, as well as opportunities to discuss thesis ideas with a small group of 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 adviser.
National Security – This course will explore some of the most current and controversial issues in national security law. After discussing the two pivotal cases regarding presidential power, Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (the Steel Seizure case) and United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation, the course will then focus on the detention of alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and the prosecution of alleged terrorists by military commissions. The course will conclude by examining the two prongs of the State Secrets Privilege, as well as the legal and policy issues regarding the United States’ program for targeted killing using drones.
Foreign Relations – This course will cover the high points of foreign relations law—that is, the domestic constitutional, statutory, and common law principles that govern the interactions of the U.S. legal system with foreign actors and international law. Topics include foreign sovereign immunity, the Act of State doctrine, the scope of the federal treaty power, self-executing and non-self-executing treaties, the domestic status of customary international law and its use in suits under the Alien Tort Statute, the relation between domestic courts and supranational institutions, and preemption of state law bearing on foreign affairs.
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.
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.
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.
Foreign Law in U.S. Courts – U.S. judges are confronted with foreign law in a variety of situations – forum non conveniens, choice of law, recognition of foreign judgments, etc. This course serves as an introduction into how foreign law can, in these situations, be properly understood and applied. It thus serves also as an introduction to comparative law for U.S. judges.