POL S 462 A: The Supreme Court in American Politics

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
PAR 120
Scott Lemieux

Syllabus Description:

POL S 462: The Supreme Court In American Politics

Instructor: Scott Lemieux                                                                                                                                             Office: Gowen 114                               

Office Hours: MW 11:20-12:20 or by appt.                                                     

Email: slemieux@uw.edu

Required Texts: Most of the class reading will be articles posted on the class’s Canvas page. There will also be two required books:

  • Jeff Shesol, Supreme Power (W.W. Norton, 2011)
  • Laura Kalman, The Long Reach of the Sixties (Oxford, 2017)

 All texts are available at the UW bookstore, as well as all major online booksellers.


Course Description and Objectives

This course introduces students to the political role of U.S. state and federal courts, court organization, staffing, financing, judicial policy making, and the public perception of judicial process. Students in this class will be introduced to the current political issues concerning judicial institutions and legal research techniques.  Additionally, this class emphasizes written and oral communication skills.

Course Requirements

Academic Honesty


All students are expected to abide by the University’s Code of Student Conduct http://www.washington.edu/teaching/cheating-or-plagiarism/.  Any student caught plagiarizing work or cheating on an exam will be reported to the appropriate university officials. 


Response Papers


To help with the reading and ensure wide participation, 2-5 students will be assigned 2-3 page response papers prior to each class section. These papers should make a critical point, suitable for class discussion, based on the reading. Papers are due the day of class on Canvas, and will be graded on a check plus/minus basis.

Final Paper


Students will have to write a paper, approximately 15-20 pp., giving the assessment of the literature on a topic relevant to the Supreme Court and American politics and one of the major themes of the class: judicial behavior, the relationship between the courts and other branches, and the role of the Supreme Court in promoting and/or constraining social change. With the permission of the instructor, students may also to a research paper on a topic related to the Supreme Court and American politics. More details will be given in class.




Students are expected to attend class daily, on time, and for the duration of the class.  Students are also expected to read all assigned readings before class, complete all written assignments on time, and treat classmates and the instructor with respect.  All students, not just those with response papers, are expected to be prepared.


 Grading Policy


Grades will be determined as follows:

40% Class participation/response paper

60% Final paper


Course Outline


Note: The syllabus represents a general plan for the course and may be subject to change, based on the discretion of the instructor. Class texts will be supplemented with additional texts posted on the class’s Canvas page. Readings on Canvas listed here will be denoted with an asterisk (*).




9/26: Class introduction

  1. The Confirmation Process

10/1-8 Supreme Court confirmations (*)

  1. Judicial Decision-Making

10/10-22 (*)

III. The Courts and the Other Branches

10/24-10/31 (*)

  1. The Law And Social Change


  1. The Supreme Court and the Court-Packing Controversy

11/14-26 Shesol, Supreme Power. CLASS CANCELLED NOVEMBER 21 AND 26.

 VII. The Fortas Confirmation and the Contemporary Court

11/28-12/5 Kalman, Long Reach of the Sixties


Catalog Description: 
Explores the US Supreme Court as a political institution. Topics include processes that bring issues before the court, influences on judicial decision making, the impact of the court on democratic processes, the role of the court in constitutional development, and the court's interactions with other branches.
Department Requirements: 
American Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm