[eDebate] Courts Topic?

Dallas Perkins dperkins
Thu Apr 13 18:32:07 CDT 2006

I like the idea suggested by Sarah:  A courts topic without any lists.  It
is possible fairly strictly and predictably to limit what types of cases
the aff may reverse, while assuring the negative solid ground in every

Just off the top of my head, let me suggest a few.

1.) Resolved that one or more existing Supreme Court rulings extending or
expanding rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution should
be overruled.

There are a lot of cases, perhaps a thousand.  If that is too many, the
topic could be constrained, limited to one of the five rights enumerated
in the First Amendment.  Can you name them all?  There is freedom of
religion, freedom of speech, freedom of peaceable assembly, freedom of
petition, and freedom of the press.  (Maybe there are two freedoms of
religion, free exercise, and freedom from state establishment of

In each case, the aff would have considerable flexibility, but the neg
would have some really solid generic ground, i.e., First Amendment
Freedoms Good, Judge.

2.) Resolved that one or more Supreme Court decisions establishing or
extending a Federal Constitutional Right to Privacy should be overruled.

We debated this one time, but the wording was too imprecise, allowing the
aff to go both directions on privacy.  This topic also makes Kuswa happy,
because it does not specify an agent; perhaps an international court could
do it?  A constitutional convention?  The aff has considerable
flexibility:  abortion, contraception, euthanasia, gay rights, etc.
However, the neg again has solid, predictable ground:  Privacy Good.

3.) Resolved that the Supreme Court should overrule one or more of its
decisions holding that an act of Congress exceeded Article I authority.

Ryan Galloway has identified many of the cases that would be topical:
federalism cases, limits on federal legislative power generally.  I have
one reservation about this topic and the resulting aff and neg ground.
Since the topic will result in cases that give Congress new powers, the
advantage areas will be unpredictable, and the negative ground will be
amorphous, with serious uniqueness issues.  I love the substance of this
debate though.

4.) Resolved that one or more Supreme Court decisions expanding or
extending intellectual property rights should be reversed.

Notice several things about this topic---
  a.) the word "reversed" is broader than "overruled."  A legislature can
reverse a statutory holding by changing a statute.
  b.) it's possible to make it more narrow, as by saying "patent rights."
  c.) the aff is always locked into saying IP bad; the neg always has IP
good, biz con, etc.

5.) Resolved that the US Supreme Court should substantially limit
Executive Power to prosecute the War on Terror.

This is admittedly awfully close to the high school topic.  The Executive
Order CP is a powerful neg tool, maybe too powerful.  On the upside, the
literature is big but predictable, lots of good K debates about the T
word.  This topic also might allow the S Ct to act in ways other than
ruling on a case, possibly using its considerable administrative powers
over the federal courts.

Our friend and ex-USC debater Lindsay Harrison has written suggesting more
topics:  overruling a case limiting the reach of equal protection (I hate
it when the aff gets to argue rights good, but that's just me) or due
process (ditto.)

Overall, I believe the topic committee could take the mandate of a "Courts
Topic" and do with it almost anything it wanted, leaving the voters with a
broad array of actual topics from which to choose.


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