Information about the cases granted certiorari for the upcoming term of the US Supreme Court?
July 25, 2007 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find information about the cases granted certiorari for the upcoming term of the US Supreme Court? Preferably, I'd like access to both short, layman-accessible summaries and merit briefs for all cases for the October '07 term.

I've seen partial summaries on SCOTUSblog, and the Supreme Court's website has this page, which provides lawyer-accessible summaries. I need the information for undergraduates.

1. I could swear I've seen some listing of upcoming cases with the issues presented so as to be accessible to the public. Is it too soon for this more journalistic coverage?

2. There's got to be a way to find the briefs for the cases from their prior hearings, probably involving Lexis-Nexis, which I have access to. But how?
posted by anotherpanacea to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What exactly are your goals here? I could be more helpful if I knew what kind of school project you had in mind.

The issues presented in the bulk of Supreme Court cases just aren't going to be accesible to the public, even bright undergrads, no matter what. Many of the granted cases revolve around what lay people quaintly call "technicalities," such as "the distinction between law and equity in ERISA jurisdiction." Hell, even lawyers don't get those technicalities sometimes.
posted by footnote at 9:01 AM on July 25, 2007


Oh, and the Medill website is a good source for collected articles on cert grants. And not all the cases have been granted for the Term. There will be a whole passel of grants after the Court's first conference in late September ("the long conference") and later conferences in the fall.
posted by footnote at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2007


I plan to weed out the most boringly technical of the cases, but this is for a research project assigned to students in a Philosophy of Law course. The goal is for them to identify the issues, research the case law, and write their own 'amicus' brief (sort of a baby-steps version of a law review article) as the culmination of the course.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2007


I plan to weed out the most boringly technical of the cases

May I say that much of the Philosophy of Law resides in its very boringness, and the mysterious process by which boringness becomes intensely fascinating when it's your case.

No? Well, then, if you want you can email me and I'll help you figure out which cases might be good for your class.
posted by footnote at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2007


Yeah, I agree, and almost wrote the same thing in response to you. As I have to read the final product, I plan to apply my own definitions of boring and technical, based mostly on an evaluation of what my students will be able to deal with interestingly.

Thanks for the Medill site. I'll be in touch.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:21 AM on July 25, 2007


And do you want the court decisions from the courts below, or the parties' appellate briefs? The Supreme Court website "granted/noted" list links to a PDF summary that includes the Federal Reporter citation to the decision below. Just plug that into Lexis and you'll get the appellate court decision. Depending on your Lexis subscription, you may be able to get to the briefs from there.

(Law librarians are really nice folks, so you might want to visit the law library if your institution has one.)
posted by footnote at 9:23 AM on July 25, 2007


Cornell's Legal Information Institute provides previews written by law students. You can also sign-up for their email list. They generally only post the previews the week or so before the argument.
posted by ajr at 2:58 PM on July 25, 2007


Regarding briefs, you can use PACER to locate and download them. It might be worth investigating if there are academic accounts, but I think it's going to cost you about $0.08 per page (max of something like $2.40 per document). Court Opinions, however, are free to view and download if you have an account.
posted by ajr at 3:01 PM on July 25, 2007


Via footnote's link, I also found this site from the ABA, which provides copies of the briefs.
posted by ajr at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2007


Here's a better link to the front page.
posted by ajr at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2007


That ABA site doesn't always have all the briefs for the current term, for some reason. If that happens for a case you're following, you can send your students to the Supreme Court Clerk's Office to make copies in the reading room. (Go in the Maryland Ave. entrance on the side of the court, rather than up the steps in the front.)
posted by footnote at 7:10 AM on July 26, 2007


The best resources have already been mentioned, but I second footnote's comment about why you want to do this. You present this explanation:

I plan to weed out the most boringly technical of the cases, but this is for a research project assigned to students in a Philosophy of Law course. The goal is for them to identify the issues, research the case law, and write their own 'amicus' brief (sort of a baby-steps version of a law review article) as the culmination of the course.
posted by anotherpanaceaPoster at 11:12 AM on July 25


I really don't see why this would be a good task in a Philosophy of Law class. You are asking them to do a legal brief which has nothing at all to do with Philosophy of Law and everything to do with substantive analysis of the law as it exists.

I remember when I took Philosophy of Law in college years ago. We had fascinating discussions about the Hart/Devlin debate, took on questions of law and economics like whether people should be able to sell their organs, and whole host of questions and papers that came down at their essence to the philosophical question of what is the nature of law and what can the law do. That is a completely different question than writing an amicus brief. Even if the Court was hearing something "exciting" like a partial birth abortion ban or a capital punishment case, those are still not philosophical questions of law. They are applying precedent.

In short, the project doesn't seem anyway related to the class beyond the fact that it touches upon the law. Philosophy of law is about broad strokes principles; legal briefs are hard-nosed pragmatic substantive legal argumentation. Those are night and day.
posted by dios at 8:17 AM on July 27, 2007


Philosophy of law is about broad strokes principles; legal briefs are hard-nosed pragmatic substantive legal argumentation.

My students are generally very talented: they can handle legal research, and indeed have seemed to relish the chance to interact with legal issues currently pressing the courts. My more open-ended research assignments generally net similar results, and I'm just trying to channel that effort. Their performance in no way resembles that of trained lawyers... but I don't mind. Better that they try and fall short than that I trip them up with the 'snare of preparation.'

The course includes substantive legal issues in order to explore broad principles of common law, constitutional, and statutory interpretation. You can't theorize about judicial activity without actually seeing what judges do. The theory heavy part of the class focuses on Hart, Dworkin, Raz, Rawls, Mills, Posner, Scalia, and Breyer. The legal issues run the gamut from attractive nuisance and easements to the more politically exciting stuff like segregation, privacy, speech, and religion. There's a whole section on substantive due process, going from Dred Scott and Lochner to Nebbia and Grisworld. I don't see how I can forgo asking students to engage with pragmatic legal argumentation unless I wish to preserve the notion that philosophy is utterly unpragmatic. It's not.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2007


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