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Making the Court Come to Life: Developing Effective Judicial Politics Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  danger that students use the opportunity to engage in an ideological debate about current political issues rather than focusing on a systemic and procedural understanding of legal institutions. 6 For both of these reasons, professors may be more willing to use a case that has already been decided. But this creates a larger problem as students are likely to copy what has come before. 7 In other words, asking students to simulate decision making when a decision has already been made limits their ability to engage in original analysis, critical thinking, and experiential learning – therefore undermining the pedagogical value of the simulation. Given these challenges, how can professors organize effective court simulations that achieve their teaching goals, advance student learning, and provide an effective classroom experience? I argue that the answer lies in the choice of cases used for a Court simulation. Here, I detail two Supreme Court simulations that I have conducted in my Judicial Politics course, both of which rely on cases that directly address substantive issues in the field of judicial politics. The cases During the Spring of 2006 and the Fall of 2007, I conducted simulations in my Judicial Politics course. To solve the problems outlined above, I chose two cases, Dimick v. Republican Party of Minnesota and New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres. Although these are not well-known cases, they offer several advantages for the purposes of a class simulation. First, 6 By using current Justices, professors can encourage students to distance themselves from their personal beliefs about the issues under consideration. Random assignment of justices can, therefore, put a student in the position of adopting an ideological or judicial philosophy that is opposite their own. The opposite, however, is also true. A student who shares the ideological predispositions of a given justice may use their assignment as a way to legitimize their own preferences in interactions with their peers. Hensley, for example, notes that “both cheers and moans can be heard as students discover the justice with whom they will be spending the semester.” Any case that engages controversial issues or unsettled questions with significant ideological content may therefore refocus student attention on ideology rather than the structural or procedural elements of the judicial branch(es). This, even incidentally, may reinforce an attitudinal approach to judicial politics. 7 Baker (1994) addresses this problem by using cases that have already been decided, but with minimal changes in the fact pattern. This limits students’ ability to simply copy the outcome and reasoning of the decision.

Authors: Caufield, Rachel.
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danger that students use the opportunity to engage in an ideological debate about current political
issues rather than focusing on a systemic and procedural understanding of legal institutions.
For
both of these reasons, professors may be more willing to use a case that has already been
decided. But this creates a larger problem as students are likely to copy what has come before.
In other words, asking students to simulate decision making when a decision has already been
made limits their ability to engage in original analysis, critical thinking, and experiential learning
– therefore undermining the pedagogical value of the simulation.
Given these challenges, how can professors organize effective court simulations that
achieve their teaching goals, advance student learning, and provide an effective classroom
experience? I argue that the answer lies in the choice of cases used for a Court simulation.
Here, I detail two Supreme Court simulations that I have conducted in my Judicial Politics
course, both of which rely on cases that directly address substantive issues in the field of judicial
politics.
The cases
During the Spring of 2006 and the Fall of 2007, I conducted simulations in my Judicial
Politics course. To solve the problems outlined above, I chose two cases, Dimick v. Republican
Party of Minnesota and New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres. Although these are
not well-known cases, they offer several advantages for the purposes of a class simulation. First,
6
By using current Justices, professors can encourage students to distance themselves from their personal beliefs
about the issues under consideration. Random assignment of justices can, therefore, put a student in the position of
adopting an ideological or judicial philosophy that is opposite their own. The opposite, however, is also true. A
student who shares the ideological predispositions of a given justice may use their assignment as a way to legitimize
their own preferences in interactions with their peers. Hensley, for example, notes that “both cheers and moans can
be heard as students discover the justice with whom they will be spending the semester.” Any case that engages
controversial issues or unsettled questions with significant ideological content may therefore refocus student
attention on ideology rather than the structural or procedural elements of the judicial branch(es). This, even
incidentally, may reinforce an attitudinal approach to judicial politics.
7
Baker (1994) addresses this problem by using cases that have already been decided, but with minimal changes in
the fact pattern. This limits students’ ability to simply copy the outcome and reasoning of the decision.


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