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Open Course: What To Do About the Courts

Jan 30, 2024



Time of Event:

Tuesday 8pm ET / 5pm PT

The Law and Political Economy Project  and the People’s Parity Project are teaming up to offer an open course/reading group on the urgent question of what to do about the courts in our current political moment.

Every day the judiciary plays an increasingly dominant role in shaping our political lives–from recent elimination of reproductive rights and affirmative action, to the steady erosion of voting rights and the unshackling of gerrymandering, to the growing attacks on the Federal government’s ability to tackle climate change, cancel student debt, protect workers, and regulate corporate power. Each of these decisions reflects the channeling of right-wing ideology through the courts in ways that override not just majority views but also the very notion of democratic self-government. But what is to be done about the courts?

For the first time in almost a century, the question of court reform is being taken seriously in mainstream circles. But the conversation to date has focused narrowly on questions of personnel changes and the possibility of adding additional justices to the court. These discussions do not engage the broader question of the proper role of the judiciary in American democracy, and the wider range of possible tools for institutional change. Over six sessions this reading group will address disempowering the courts: how to understand the problem, historical and international perspectives on disempowerment reform efforts, the strengths and weaknesses of the tools available to us, as well as what building up a political movement around disempowering the courts might look like.

We hope you will join PPP and the LPE Project to hear from an incredible line-up of faculty including Niko Bowie, Aziz Rana, Sabeel Rahman, Amy Kapczynski, Ryan Doerfler, William Forbath, Samuel Moyn, Ganesh Sitaraman and Astra Taylor. This is an urgent conversation with law students, lawyers, and many non-lawyers about the impact of the courts on the lives of everyday people, as well as on how we might build a more just, equitable, and sustainable future. We look forward to having you be a part of it.

The Format: Each session will begin with a speaker or speakers offering approximately 30 minutes of framing thoughts and pose some questions. We will divide the participants into breakout rooms to discuss amongst themselves. We also strongly encourage student groups or political chapters to hold these discussions in person.

The readings for each session will be posted at least 1 week ahead, as well as emailed to all registered participants.

Registration: (you do not need to be able to make every session in order to register/participate, but we strongly encourage you to attend as many as you are able)

The Schedule: 

Jan 30 (8pm ET) – The Problem of the Court

Feb 20 (8pm ET)History of Reform Efforts (1865–2022)

Mar 19 (8pm ET)International Comparative Perspective on the Courts

Apr 16 (8pm ET) –  Tools to Disempower the Court (pt. I)

May 28 (8pm ET) –  Tools to Disempower the Court (pt. II)

Jun 25 (8pm ET) – What is to be Done with Astra Taylor & Sabeel Rahman