A Brief History of The Supreme Court

Alison Gash – University of Oregon

Few at the Founding could have ever imagined the Supreme Court becoming one of the most powerful policymaking institutions in the United States. Yet today, the Court has the power to sidestep public opinion, upend federal legislation, constrain state governance and even bring down the President. Professor Alison Gash will take us back to the Court's humble beginnings, charting how the Court amassed its power under Justice Marshall's leadership. Professor Gash will introduce us to the Court's struggles under pre-and post-Reconstruction racial apartheid, its skirmishes with legislative and executive power during the New Deal era, and its foray into areas of privacy, intimacy and expression.

As we walk through the Court's history, meandering through landmark decisions, Professor Gash will use her research on law and social policy to highlight the importance of understanding the Court not only as a legal actor but also as a significant source of policy innovation and paralysis. Through this lens, Professor Gash will demonstrate why the Court's makeup–its personalities and its relationships–can make or break American public policy.