Reading & Applying Cases: A View from the Appellate Branch
Professor Ransom served on the New Mexico Supreme Court for ten years, from 1986 to 1997. This course will focus on opinions written by him during that time. The goal of the course is to foster in first year law students a better understanding of the principles and practicalities that are involved in the making of judicial opinions—from the impact of the parties’ briefs to the internal processes of the appellate court that help shape the judicial opinion. The central theme of the course is that students will become better “readers” of judicial opinions as they become more familiar with the forces that shape them.
There is no required text or casebook. Each week students will receive a packet of readings, usually including a New Mexico Supreme Court opinion, articles, supporting cases, or appellate briefs. Topics will range from the broad (Can and should judges totally ignore their personal views and beliefs when deciding cases? How should judges construe statutes to assure that the court does not encroach upon legislative prerogatives?) to the narrow (How does the standard of appellate review influence the drafting of opinions and their stare decisis effect? Why is there a requirement that alleged errors must have been brought to the attention of the trial court if they are to be the subject of an appeal and why are there exceptions to this “preservation of error” rule?).
There will be no final exam. Students will be evaluated based on periodic short assignments during the semester and a ten page paper due at the end of the semester.