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Spring 2013 - Jurisprudence of Sport

Berman, Mitchell N

Course ID: 379M  Unique # 29280  Credit Hours: 3
Meeting DaysTimesLocation
   Monday 9:05 am - 10:20 am JON 6.206
   Wednesday 9:05 am - 10:20 am JON 6.206
Exam Type   Date   Time      Name Range   Room  
  Final Friday, May 10    1:30 pm          A-Z

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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