PAPER TOPICS: As long as you stay within the context of the course, you are free (with my guidance) to develop a topic and outline that interests you. With that said, however, I offer the following suggestions to get you started:
* A general assessment and literature review on the subject of Supreme Court policymaking. Are courts (particularly, the Supreme Court), as Hamilton said, the "least dangerous" branch? Should they be engaged in active policymaking? Is there any difference in this regard between so-called "liberal" courts and so-called ”conservative" courts?
* Choose a justice (present or past) and assess her or his impact. What issues particularly seemed to interest this justice? Was/is she or he generally in the majority or minority on controversial issues? Etc. Alternatively, you might want to compare two justices.
* Choose a justice and read thoroughly 5-10 of his or her major opinions, as well as one or more scholarly assessments of him or her. What method of jurisprudence does this justice employ, and how did that affect his or her decisions?
* In general, does the Supreme Court govern well? On a variety of issues are courts well-equipped to engage in active policymaking? Are they better in some areas than in others?
* Alternatively, you may wish to examine in-depth one area (one set of cases) in which the Supreme Court has set policy (i.e., abortion, school desegregation, affirmative action, the death penalty, voting rights or reapportionment, women's rights, gay rights, environmentalism, children's rights, criminal due process etc., etc., etc.)
* We often think of the Court as being the last refuge for those who have been shut out of the regular political processes - i.e., the poor, minorities, or political undesirables such as criminals. But are these really the chief clientele of the Court? You may wish to examine a five to 10 year period on the Court's docket. Who were parties in cases that got a full hearing before the Court? Alternatively, you might want to examine a particular issue area over a 5-10 year period. Who were winners? Who were the losers?
* Examine what the Court has had to say over the years about the reach of presidential power.
* Examine the relationship between the Court and one of the other branches of government.
* What is the role of political ideology in Supreme Court policymaking?
* Is there a difference between the current Supreme Court (the Roberts Court) and previous Courts (i.e., the Rehnquist court, Warren Court or the Burger Court) in their attitudes about judicial policymaking?
*Over the course of our history, numerous presidential nominees have been rejected by the Senate. Examine some of these rejections. Why did they occur?
* Study, and report on, the current make-up of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the current President. Based on this report can you make any conjectures on the type (or even the actual individual) most likely to satisfy everyone as the next Justice of the Supreme Court? 6
* Assess media coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court. Is it covered as fully and as well as other institutions of government?
* A further examination of any of the syllabus headings.