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Federal Courts in Context, First Edition

  • Erwin Chemerinsky
  • Seth Davis
  • Fred O. Smith
  • Norman W. Spaulding
Series / Aspen Casebook Series
Teaching Materials

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Federal Courts deservedly have the reputation of being an exceptionally difficult course, and this book is designed to make it accessible to students by providing the context of cases and doctrines, as well as explaining their relevance to the issues being litigated in the 21st century. Federal Courts in Context supports what pedagogic research calls “deep learning.” It does so by framing federal jurisdiction and structural constitutional law using clear, concise explanations of the social and historical context of canonical cases to reveal the concrete stakes of traditional debates about federal judicial power. The result is an engaging, accessible, and richly textured account of the subject supporting not only more sophisticated doctrinal and jurisprudential analysis but also the necessary foundation for inclusive pedagogy in the training of diverse 21st-century lawyers. The focus is on canonical cases and their context rather than notoriously dense treatise-like material common to other books in the field. The book is also organized to dovetail with Erwin Chemerinsky’s Federal Jurisdiction to maximize the accessibility of the casebook content and learning outcomes.

Benefits for instructors and students:

  • Structured to pair with the most commonly used secondary reference in the field, Erwin Chemerinsky’s Federal Jurisdiction.
  • Focuses on canonical cases and excerpts rather than long, dense notes and treatise-like material.
  • Directly addresses the structural constitutional significance of the Civil War, Reconstruction Amendments, and the retreat from Reconstruction for federalism, the modern Court’s federalism revival, and separation of powers.
  • Makes explicit the influences of Indian Removal, allotment, and the late nineteenth-century extension of the American empire on doctrines of sovereignty, jurisdiction, plenary power, and non-Article III courts.
  • Provides interdisciplinary contextualization of the labor movement, the New Deal, and the reproductive rights movement to enrich analysis of reverse-Erie cases, the rise of the administrative state, agency adjudication, and standing.
  • Marries doctrinal and theoretical precision about the course’s core concepts (federalism, separation of powers, the Supremacy Clause, and jurisdiction) with legal realist sensibilities and attention to how ordinary people are affected by structural constitutional law, rather than abstractions, Socratic questions without answers, or other pedagogic techniques divorced from the research on deep learning.
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Federal Courts and Federal Jurisdiction
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