Law 212 - Federal Courts
Jonathan D. Varat
J.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1972
The course will take up four major topics:
(i) Justiciability, including standing, mootness, ripeness, and political questions.
(ii) Statutory jurisdiction, including issues of congressional control.
(iii) Immunity, including sovereign immunity and qualified immunity.
(iv) Habeas Corpus, including post-conviction and Guantánamo cases.
These topics are broadly relevant for litigation but have special import for certain types of practice. Most obviously, the above material is important for federal constitutional litigation, which paradigmatically involves civil rights but also frequently features business interests. On the defense side, many government attorneys deploy material covered early in the class to defeat various types of litigation. And much of the material is critically relevant for criminal, post-conviction, and prison work. The course also addresses a number of procedural issues that pertain to almost any form of legal practice, such as the force of precedent and rules pertaining to issue preservation.
Students will be exposed to, and will participate in examining, some of the most sophisticated analyses offered in Supreme Court opinions and other legally relevant materials from the origins of the Constitution to the present day, all in the context of the most fundamental structural premises of American government. Accordingly, their analytical skills should be enhanced significantly, and their understanding of how the American legal system operates in dividing judicial power between federal and state judicial systems, and in dividing legal authority among the three branches of the national government and between national and state governments at all levels, should be profoundly deepened. An appreciation of the influential power of constitutional history (and varied accounts of that history) in resolving modern and continuing conflicts among different legal actors and entities is also a likely learning outcome. The complexities of parallel federal and state judicial systems for resolving disputes will be explored in detail as well.