Monday, February 4, 2013

The Nuance of Judicial Decision-Making

Below are two videos about Judicial Decision-Making. The first is from Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings. In it, he describes how justices are bound in their decision-making to follow the rule of law as expressed through precedent.  The second video features U. of Maryland Law Professor Sherrilyn Iffel explaining how diversity in a court's make-up is important to the decision-making process.

Students may wonder if the views expressed in these videos are inconsistent. If there is a "rule of law" and judges are bound to follow it, then why would diversity on a court make a difference? Of course, these videos are not inconsistent.  But it is this nuance of what a "rule of law" means and what goes into judicial decision-making that is often difficult to convey to undergraduate students.

One of the most rewarding aspect of teaching undergraduates is feeling a part of this process where students evolve out of their "civics class" type understandings of the legal system into educated adults with a more mature understanding of the relationships between law and society.

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