Cornell College Department
About Cornell Academics Admissions Alumni Athletics Offices Library

Department of Politics

Department of Politics

372. Current Cases before the Supreme Court

December 2009

The Honorable David R. Hansen, U. S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit

Professor Robert W. Sutherland


Class Meetings, Required Readings, & Instructor Contact: Daily 9-11 (Note an afternoon class on Dec. 4th 1-3 for the midterm exam) South 17. Beginning Dec. 7th, the course will meet in the Council Chambers of Mt. Vernon City Hall (lower level), 213 1st. St. NW. The required reading will be from T. R. van Geel, Understanding Supreme Court Opinions (6th ed.) available in the Bookstore. Dr. Sutherland is the person to contact and the best way to reach him is by e-mail. Voice mail (4226) and campus mail (2412) contacts are much slower, generally 48 hours slower.

Formal Expectations: Court room standards will apply consistently in classroom decorum and conduct. The following are examples of such expectations. No casual forms of address are to be used in class. The instructors are to be called "Judge Hansen" and "Professor Sutherland." Similarly, students should avoid referring openly in class to one another by first names or without including "Mr." or "Ms." Students can expect to be questioned orally about each day's assignment and the student responding to a question must stand and answer in a manner that all can hear and understand. Robes will be provided and worn by instructors and students alike when acting as judges. Petitioners and respondents in oral argument should be in business attire and others should avoid very casual clothes (jeans, sweatshirts, ball caps, etc.) whenever the class meets whether oral argument is being conducted or not. Business casual is the standard, except for the petitioner and respondent. All pagers and mobile phones must be turned off during class. If you have questions or concerns about these policies, please contact Professor Sutherland.

Organization: Except in the opening two days of the course, each class meeting will be devoted to a different current case (see below) before the Supreme Court. These cases will be assigned for oral argument or for general class discussion. The cases subject only to general class discussion are concentrated more in the early part of the course to enable students to prepare their assigned cases for later oral argument. In these earlier class meetings, the case for the day will be prepared by the whole class so that all are ready to answer Socratic questions from the instructor addressed to various individual students. Such questioning will continue in the later class meetings of the course but only in the general discussion following oral arguments. The first half of the class meeting during each oral argument day in the later period of the course will be reserved for students acting for the petitioner and respondent in a current case before the Supreme Court. Oral argument will be heard by a panel of judges, to include Judge Hansen or Professor Sutherland and two students. Assignment of cases and roles will be done by drawing lots on the first day of the course.

Grades: Case preparation, participation in general discussion, the quality of student responses to Socratic questions, and the quality of student questions as a judge all contribute in determining 15% of the final grade. Performance in oral argument will determine 25% of the final grade. A midterm exam is scheduled for Friday, 1-3, December 4th (5%). The course concludes with an exam (25%) and a paper (30%). In the paper, students will write the opinion that they expect the Court to hand down in their orally argued case. In the exam, students will demonstrate their understanding of the Court and the cases currently before it. The final exam includes two components. The first part includes multiple, specific questions to evaluate what students have learned about the Supreme Court, especially how it operates and by what authorities. The second part is hypothetical and more like an essay. The student will be asked to apply some of the legal principles derived from the cases studied and do so in a reasoned lawyer-like manner to a multi-faceted fact situation contained in the essay question.

Date/Time Place Assignment
Monday, 11/23 , 9:00 South 17 Van Geel, pp. 3-19
Tue., 11/24, 9:00 South 17 Van Geel, pp. 21-40
Wed., 11/25, 9:00 South 17 Van Geel, pp. 53-74; Kiyemba v. Obama; Skilling v. U. S.
Mon., 11/30, 9:00 South 17 Maryland v. Shatzer, Sr.; Florida v. Powell; Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins
Tues., 12/1, 9:00 South 17

Free Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board et al.; United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa

Wed., 12/2, 9:00 South 17 Alvarez v. Smith; Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky
Thur., 12/3, 9:00 South 17 Briscoe v. Virginia; Carr v. U. S.
Fri., 12/4 , 9:00 South 17 MIDTERM EXAM
Mon., 12/7 , 9:00 City Hall Council Chambers

McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago

Thompson, Petitioner; Blesener, Respondent. Justices Hansen, Stacey, & Hill

Tues, 12/8, 9:00

Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection Dinneen, Petitioner; Stacey, Respondent. Justices: Sutherland, Harrington, & Logan

Wed., 12/9, 9:00


Berghis, Warden v. Smith Petitioner, Roche; Roche, Respondent. Justices: Hansen, Thompson, & Herbert

Thur., 12/10, 9:00
U. S. v. Comstock Logan, Petitioner; Harrington, Respondent. Justices: Hansen & Zamani
Fri., 12/11, 9:00
Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al., v. Buono Simmons, Petitioner; Case, Respondent. Justices: Sutherland, Fleming, & Roche
Mon., 12/14, 9:00
Holder, Attorney General v. Humanitarian Law Project; Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder Petitioner, Hill; Respondent, Fleming. Justices: Sutherland Eggleston & Case
Tues, 12/15, 9:00
Pottawattamie County v. McGhee et al. Petitioner, Eggleston; Respondent, Purkey. Justices: Hansen, McNutt, & Simmons
Wed, 12/16, 9:00
Alabama v. North Carolina Petitioner, Wije; Respondent, McNutt. Justices: Hansen, Dinneen, & Blesener
Thur., 12/17, 9:00
Graham v. Florida; Sullivan v. Florida Petitioner, Herbert; Respondent, Zamani. Justices: Hansen, Purkey, & Wije
Fri., 12/18, 9:00


Maintained by:
600 First Street West, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 52314 ©2003 Cornell College; All Rights Reserved