Get Ahead of the Curve for J-Term and Spring

“Hey, you’re in law school—what do you think about the Supreme Court?” Chances are you fielded a version of this question from relatives and friends over break. If your response started with “well, in 1945 in International Shoe…” or “Erie says…,” keep reading to find out how to update your discussion points to the current Term’s cases in time for your J-term and Spring classes.

Here are some SCOTUS cases to be ready to raise your hand about in class this semester:

  • First-years, when the Court hears arguments in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association on February 27, you’ll be a month into Constitutional Law and ready to debate whether the four-story cross-shaped memorial on a Maryland-owned median violates the First Amendment. (This is one to follow also if you’re taking Professor Armacost’s Constitutional Law II: Religious Liberty.)
  • Ahoy! For Professor Rutherglen’s Admiralty J-term course, get on board with the issues raised in Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries, docket no. 17-1104, about products liability for exposure to asbestos in ship equipment.
  • Show off what you learn about tax exemptions and the Railroad Retirement System in Federal Income Tax with Professor Yin or Professor Hayashi and Professor Doran’s Employee Benefits Law after taking a look at BNSF Railway Co. v. Loos, no. 17-1042.
  • Come into Professor Nachbar’s J-term course with a prime example of The Firm and Cyberspace from Apple Inc. v. Pepper, no. 17-204.
  • Assess the Southern Poverty Law Center and Cato Institute’s amici arguments about the impact of fines, fees, and forfeitures on the criminal justice system in Timbs v. Indiana, no. 17-1091, and share with your classmates in Professor Harmon’s Criminal Procedure Survey and Professor Shin’s Law and Public Service.
  • Get a preview of Wildlife Law the week before Professor Hynes’ J-term course by listening to the parties in Herrera v. Wyoming, no. 17-532, argue whether Crow Tribe members have treaty rights to hunt for food in the Bighorn National Forest.
  • Brief yourself on the circuit split over suits against companies for misstatements in tender offers before the Court and your Securities Regulation classes with Professor Kitch and Professor Vollmer address it in Emulex Corporation v. Varjabedian, no. 18-459.  

There are many resources available to help you get up to speed on these cutting-edge legal controversies. Apply your lawyer-in-training analytical skills directly to the case filings and lower court’s opinion—filings submitted after SCOTUS went electronic in November 2017 are on the Court’s website; for earlier filings go to SCOTUSblog. Also head to the Court’s site to follow oral arguments in audio (posted the Friday after) and written transcript (posted the same day). Find and track what experts say about the case through Google News, blogs like SCOTUSblog, and practice-area blogs discoverable in Justia’s BlawgSearch.

You can also head to our subscription databases for news on SCOTUS cases (and any lower court cases that interest you). Bloomberg Law is a one-stop-shop for learning about current cases. If you haven’t already registered, use the link in our list of databases. Its news is written for lawyers, covers cases in depth, and is updated frequently. Browse news specific to practice areas and set up alerts to receive headlines or keyword-specific results by going to Browse > News > Bloomberg Law News. To stay on top of the major federal and state cases across practice areas, head to U.S. Law Week. Lexis’ Law360 similarly specializes in legal news and is available in the Lexis database and in a browsable interface via LawWeb.

To find articles about your case, try keyword searching party names, terms like “court,” “judge,” or “justice,” and issue-specific words. Keep in mind that you know more about the law than the general public, so non-law news outlets’ articles will not have legal terminology. When your search in a subscription database generates a set of relevant articles, schedule email alerts of future articles with your keywords by clicking the bell symbol at the top of the results page. Are you getting hundreds of results? Narrow to the most relevant ones by using Boolean terms and connectors in your search—click the question mark in Bloomberg Law’s searchbox for a list of them and head to Westlaw and Lexis’ advanced search screens for guided forms. If you have questions about the databases, stop by or email us at

Photo: Inside the United States Supreme Court by Phil Roeder used under CC BY 2.0 / Resized

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover

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