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David Sosa, Chair 2210 Speedway, WAG 316, Stop C3500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4857

Mitchell Berman

Professor JD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor



Professor Berman, the Richard Dale Endowed Chair in Law, works principally in constitutional theory, the philosophy of criminal law, and the jurisprudence of sports.  His many publications include ‘Punishment and Justification’ (Ethics 2008), ‘Originalism is Bunk’ (NYU Law Review 2009), and ‘Constitutional Decision Rules’ (Virginia Law Review 2004).  Berman serves on the editorial boards of Legal Theory, Law and Philosophy, and Criminal Law and Philosophy.  He is co-Director, with John Deigh, of the UT Law and Philosophy Program.


Philosophy of Criminal Law and Constitutional Theory

PHL 387 • Jurisprudence Of Sport

42869 • Spring 2013
Meets MW 900am-1030am JON 6.206
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Graduate Standing and consent of Graduate Advisor required.

Course Description

Formal, organized sports are, in effect, legal systems.  They regulate behavior to achieve a complex array of ends by means of promulgated rules enforced by impartial adjudicators.  As such, they are proper subjects of study by legal scholars and law students.  This is (to the best of the instructor's knowledge) the first course in the country to subject sports-as-legal-systems to careful and sustained analysis. 

A very small sample of the topics to be addressed includes:  What are sports, and what is their relationship to games? (The IOC has determined that bridge and chess are sports.  Is this correct? Does it matter?) What form should the rules take? (For example, should sports rules contain "mens rea" terms? Should they be more "rule-like" or more "standard-like"?) How much discretion do and should officials have? (Chief Justice Roberts said that "judges are like umpires."  Is this true? In what way(s)?) Should on-field decisions be appealable and, if so, what should the procedures and standards of appellate review be? (For example, is the "indisputable visual evidence standard" of review in the NFL and NCAA football justified?) What is cheating? (Did the badminton players at the London Olympics who tried to lose "cheat"? Do baseball players cheat when they falsely claim to be hit by a pitch?) Is there anything to the notion, commonly held by basketball fans, that fouls should be enforced less strictly at crunch time? What should the rules of eligibility be? (Should Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee be allowed to compete against non-disabled runners?)

In exploring questions like these, the course will, where appropriate, both draw upon, and examine possible lessons for, ordinary law.  The course is therefore both an in-depth and rigorous investigation into sports and a vehicle for deepening one's understanding of law.  A course on "sports law" examines the regulation of sports by law.  This course, in contrast, examines sports as legal systems in their own right.

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