May. 13th, 2007

Ugh. There are many reasons to appreciate a professor asking you to send them example questions before your exam. However, thinking up broad, field-encompassing questions is a whole hell of a lot harder than I would have thought. And I've spent more time thinking about things I could ask myself than I have actually reading.

Time to wash the mask off the face (Catastrophe Cosmetic from Lush, of course) and head to bed.
If I were giving a public law comprehensive exam, here's what I suppose I'd ask:

1) What is law? How do the different conceptions of law shape the study and understanding of law and its relationship to institutions and society? Discuss some of the major scholarly legal traditions (legal formalism, legal realism, and so on) and their approaches to the study of law.

2) What is the role of law, litigation, lawyers, and legal institutions in movements pursuing social change? What is the utility of the use of law and rights talk by movements in their pursuit of social reform?

3) How do judges decide? How have scholars understood and attempted to explain judicial behavior, decision-making, and policy-making? Discuss approaches to understanding judicial behavior, highlighting some of the strengths and weaknesses of the various traditions. How does an inter-branch perspective that focuses on courts’ relationships to other institutions add to the understanding of judicial decision-making?

4) How do courts matter? Focusing not only on the American Supreme Court, discuss how courts matter – their impacts, effects – in political systems.

Now to think about how I'd answer them.
You know, I took a walk down to Vivace to do a little reading and saw all these people, moms and sons, moms and daughters, whole families, people with flowers . . . I know I have fabulously special days with my mom whenever we're in the same place. But brunch on mother's day with her would have been nice.

And I've figured out another reason to avoid children: caring for Maynard is not unlike caring for a toddler. Which I suspect he will be like for the remainder of his life. I constantly have to watch what he gets himself in to, occasionally have to clean breakfast or dinner off his face, occasionally have to wipe his fluffy bum after a trip to the box, have to remind him that certain things (mommy's books, the lighter, pens, and so on) are not toys . . .

See? Just like having a toddler in the apartment.

I have discovered a virtue to knowing so little about a field. When I took my American Politics exam, since it is my minor field, it was relatively easy to organize what I know in my head. It was relatively limited and so not terribly messy to shift around, organize, synthesize, and so on.

Now, consider public law. My familiarity with public law as a field goes back 6 years. While contemplating judicial behavior over my latte, it occurred to me that this makes organizing what I know in my head a bit more . . . complicated, much more messy, but I suppose also more interesting.

As much as I'm not looking forward to Friday, sifting through the field in my head has reminded me that I love this stuff. I don't love studying judicial behavior, per se (which is why I don't), but thinking about courts as policymakers, law and social change, the sources and consequences of law, and so on . . . well, is really interesting to me. After years of course work, it always helps to be reminded that your brain did once feel intellectually excited and stimulated by ideas. So, I plan to try to go into the next five days with that in mind.



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