The Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular represent the republic's most unusual and least understood branch of government. Unlike the elected executive and legislative branches, the justices of the Supreme Court are appointed and serve during good behavior. Therefore they enjoy a degree of independence from the direct winds of politics that truly sets them apart. Moreover, while the cases before them are always heard in public, they are always decided in private - in conferences that the justices alone attend. What goes on both in open court and behind closed doors? What is the decision-making process and what considerations are taken into account? To what degree do tradition, politics, and precedent play a role? How are the justices, through their decisions, direct interpreters of constitutional law?This course explores the court as a living, breathing institution - one subject to the press of public opinion yet removed from its direct impact - one whose members have as often as not been vilified or praised. Listeners will come to know the court through a thorough study of its most significant decisions. The individual lectures explore both the personalities and legal reasoning behind, as well as the political impact of, these landmark cases. In the end, students will arrive at a solid understanding of the high court, its justices, its traditions, and, most importantly, its impact on the American Republic, not only today, but over the previous two centuries.More
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