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What to keep in mind ...
Reading a Supreme Court opinion for the first time might seem to be an overwhelming task because of the unfamiliar legal concepts and terminology.
You are not being asked (nor should you ask yourself!) to read and understand the opinion like an expert might.
While reading the opinion for the first time, keep in mind the potential prompts for your paper (constitutionality, justice/morality, conduciveness to effective government). Keep asking yourself as you read, "Which of these prompts speaks most to me?" As you read the opinion again - this time with your chosen prompt in mind - highlight the portions of the opinion that support your thoughts and arguments.
Resources for Legal Terminology
Gale Virtual Reference Library This link opens in a new window
Access to encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research. Titles can be searched alone, by subject, or all titles can be searched together.
capable of being decided by a court; related doctrines include standing, ripeness, mootness, and political questions
an issue presenting no real controversy or live dispute for a court to resolve because the underlying facts or law have changed
when the facts of a case have matured into substantial controversy warranting judicial intervention
the requirement that (1) plaintiffs have sustained or will sustain direct injury or harm and (2) the harm is redressable
Political Question Doctrine
doctrine that refers to the idea that an issue is so politically charged that the court (considered or viewed as the apolitical branch of government) should not hear the issue
Slippery Slope Arguments
the concern that implementing a seemingly modest and worthwhile decision "A" now will increase the likelihood of a much broader and more harmful decision "B" later
Levels of Scrutiny
(14th Amendment) The Supreme Court has developed a 3-tiered approach to legislative classifications: strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and rational basis/relationship test
How to Read a U.S. Supreme Court Opinion