Academy of Lifelong Learning

The Supreme Court: Top Hits of the 2015 Term - Session 2

John Christie


Fridays, October 28 – December 9 (six weeks)

4:15 – 5:30 pm


* No classes the week of Thanksgiving.


No one would have expected it. On the first Monday of October 2015, the Court’s 2015 Term began routinely enough. A number of potential landmark cases had been accepted for review involving significant subjects such as affirmative action, contraceptive health care coverage under Obamacare, abortion restrictions, immigration, racial exclusion from juries and public worker union dues required of non-members. Briefs were filed and oral arguments were scheduled and held as the term unfolded.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, Justice Antonin Scalia died, the 103rd Justice to sit on the Court. After years of speculation about the health of Justice Ginsberg, it was Justice Scalia who was first to leave, having served nearly thirty years as the principal spokesperson for the more conservative side of the Court. With the balance between conservatives and liberals threatening to shift, the Court became embroiled in the politics of a Presidential election year with no assurance that a successor to Justice Scalia would be confirmed by the Senate in this term, much less the next one. Suddenly the 2015 term assumed a radically different look as the Court continued its work with only eight Justices.

This course will feature introductory commentary on the Court, an overall analysis of the work of the Court during this term as well as a look at the momentous collateral events of the year, including a retrospective on Justice Scalia and his impact on the Court, President Obama’s successor nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, an assessment of the workings of an eight-Justice Court and a historical review of Court vacancies in presidential election years. We will also have a series of class discussions focused on some of the term’s new decisions. A reading of one or more edited versions of the Court’s opinions each week will enhance the value of these class discussions.