The Roberts Court


Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, and Supreme Court expert, Professor Lee Epstein, share insights on the inner workings of the court with upper-level law students.

With a new president, a vacancy, and several justices nearing retirement age, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts finds itself at a crossroads. Exploring the path that led to this point and contemplating the future proved timely for a weekend course titled, “The Roberts Court.”

Lee Epstein, the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor, and Adam Liptak, of The New York Times, teach the course – which was brought back by popular student demand after debuting last spring.

Discussion topics included:

  • The court’s membership: how the justices are selected and how the court could change in the next few years – given the vacancy after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the fact that several justices are in their 80s.
  • Access to the court: the exclusivity of the court related to the “Echo Chamber,” a small group of attorneys who frequently appears before the Supreme Court.
  • The decision-making of the Roberts Court: a discussion of the court’s recent activism – or lack thereof.

To illuminate the discussions, Epstein included statistical analyses from her co-authored book, The Behavior of Federal Judges: A Theoretical and Empirical Study of Rational Choice (Harvard University Press). Her empirical research is frequently cited in national media, including The New York Times.

Liptak, who earned a law degree from Yale in 1988, has covered the Supreme Court for nine years.