The Roberts Court

WEEKEND COURSE EXPLORES U.S. SUPREME COURT AT A CROSSROADS

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.