Sunday, August 26, 2007

My new APSA paper is online

I'll be off to this year's American Political Science Association conference later this week. I'll present a formal model of dissents in U.S. Courts of Appeals panels; the paper can be found here. Any comments welcome!

Now I just hope Chicago will be inhabitable next weekend...

Suggestion for POSC 295 students: Take a look at the APSA program and browse some of the papers posted here. While some of the material may be (but only maybe) over your head, you'll find lots of ideas for interesting research topics.

Wiretapping, prosecutors, executive privilege

The ongoing debates about the firing of federal prosecutors, executive privilege, and wiretapping make great teaching material. They involve hot-button issues that have partisans excited, and students should be more interested than usual. That excitement is justified, considering the issues at stake. The debates concern important questions of political ground rules that can only be called constitutional (although the debates are not always framed in terms of the Constitution). Still, the courts do not play a dominant role, contradicting the impression students may get in Conlaw classes discussing only Supreme Court cases. All of these issues illustrate clearly the weakness of judicial institutions and the importance of actual power structures and interest constellations. For example, the executive privilege and prosecutor questions illustrate how important the administration's gatekeeping powers are for the courts -- and to what extent this reduces the influence of what we often like to think of as an neutral application of the law.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll post here a number of links to the debates surrounding these three issues. There is lots of fascinating and knowledgeable material available on blogs and websites that is great for class discussion. Also, it's nice to see that despite the current noisy partisanship it is still possible to conduct profound public political discussions across the aisle.