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Understanding Supreme Court Opinions, CourseSmart eTextbook, 6th Edition

By T. R. Van Geel

Published by Pearson

Published Date: Apr 9, 2008

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Going beyond the standard interpretation of Supreme Court opinions, this practical text delves into the legal reasoning behind the written opinions - the modes of persuasion and justification used by Supreme Court justices - to give students a deeper understanding of how to read and interpret the decisions of our highest court.


An indispensable supplement to any constitutional law casebook, the sixth edition has been thoroughly updated, incorporating new material throughout the book on recent opinions issued by the Supreme Court.  It also includes a new Chapter 9, which discusses in greater depth the briefing of a case - Seattle School District No. 1 - and its analysis. 

Table of Contents



About the Author  

Part 1    

Chapter 1  The Supreme Court: Policy Maker and Teacher     
Constitutional Conflicts  
An Overview of the Constitution  
Getting the Supreme Court to Play Its Role  
Basic Features of a Supreme Court Opinion  
Practice Pointers   

Chapter 2  The Constitution in a Nutshell     
The Court as Supervisor of the Boundaries of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Authority (The First Feature)  
The Court as Umpire of Federal-State Relations (The Second Feature)  
The Court as Supervisor of Government’s Relationship to the Individual (The Third Feature)  
The Court as Enforcer of Government Evenhandedness: Equal Protection (The Fourth Feature)  
The Court as Supervisor of Government’s Relationship with Religion (The Fifth Feature)  
Constitutionality of Federal and State Law: An Addendum  
Practice Pointers  

Chapter 3  Opinion Writing in the Supreme Court  
Writing a Supreme Court Opinion: The General Problem  
Constraints and Expectations  
Practice Pointers  

Part 2    

Chapter 4  The Legal Materials Used in Building a Constitutional Opinion     
Constitutional Interpretation (Or Not)?
Liberalism and Conservatism  
Judicial Activism and Deference  
The Opinions of Chief Justice Marshall: An Addendum  
Practice Pointers   

Chapter 5  Tests or Standards of Review     
Tests in General  
Selected Examples of Tests  
Tests and the Illusion of Certainty  
Practice Pointers  

Chapter 6  Precedent      
A Terminological Interlude  
The English Doctrine of Precedent  
The Theory of the Doctrine of Precedent  
The Doctrine of Precedent (Stare Decisis) in the Supreme Court  
 Expanding and Narrowing Precedent
Working with Conflicting Lines of Precedent  
The Effects of Narrow and Broad Readings of Precedent: An Addendum  
Practice Pointers  

Chapter 7  Strategies of Justification  
The Syllogism and Deductive Reasoning    
Deduction and The Analogy  
Deduction and Balancing
Judicial Disagreements  
A Closer Look at Deduction (Optional): An Addendum
Practice Pointers   

Part 3    

Chapter 8  Understanding a Supreme Court Opinion     
The Facts  
The Majority Opinion  
Concurring and Dissenting Opinions  
The Dynamics of Opinion Writing  
Briefing Griswold
The Legal Significance of Griswold
Practice Pointers
Chapter 9  Analysis of a Supreme Court Opinion
The Brief of Seattle School District No. 1
Questions Directed to 'Explaining' the Case
Evaluative Judgement: The Legal Sufficient of the Decision
Political and Policy Implications of the Decision
Practice Pointers

Table of Cases  


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Understanding Supreme Court Opinions, CourseSmart eTextbook, 6th Edition
Format: Safari Book

$30.99 | ISBN-13: 978-0-205-65134-4