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March Madness: Case Law Edition

March 29, 2024

March Madness Bracket on a on whiteboard in library

We know you have opinions about all those opinions you read in 1L classes, so here’s your chance to have some fun with them! Choose who will advance to the next round! 

2024 Champion is 

Lucy v. Zehmer

Thank you all for participating!



Which of these cases is the G.O.A.T? You decide!

March Madness: Case Law Edition Bracket

For each match up below, choose which case you think deserves to advance to the next round. Winners of the round will be posted here and on our March Madness board in Biddle Library.

Maybe it was your favorite (or least favorite) to discuss. Maybe it is the one you think is the most essential or foundational. Maybe it is the one that is the most memorable (for good or for ill). Or maybe it just has the right vibe today. Whatever the reason, let us know your votes!

4/2 UPDATE: We are down to the FINAL ROUND! Round Three Winners:

Lucy v. Zehmer

Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.

Vote for your Champion by April 9



Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins versus Marbury v. Madison: It was a close race, but once again Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion comes out on top with 55% of your votes. “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Chills. Literal chills.

Lucy v. Zehmer versus International Shoe Co. v. Washington: In another loss for our remaining Civil Procedure cases, International Shoe was drunk under the table by Lucy v. Zehmer. Lucy v. Zehmer pulled ahead with 54% of your votes!

Pennoyer v. Neff versus Wickard v. Filburn: In a race that was neck and neck until the very end, Wickard v. Filburn knocked out the final CivPro case from the running: Wickard got 51% of your votes!

Brown v. Board of Education versus Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.: An unexpected (dare I say explosive) upset: Palsgraf nudged just ahead of Brown v. Board at the last moment to clinch a win for Torts! Palsgraf emerged from the chaos with 51% of your votes!

RIP to the remaining civil procedure cases! Your final four cases include one contracts case, one torts case, and two constitutional law cases (a case establishing an expanded judicial power and a case establishing an expanded Congressional power).


Past Round Winners Analysis

Civil Procedure Cases

Civil Procedure in a Nutshell and Understanding Civil Procedure each have brief overviews of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, Pennoyer v. Neff, and Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins and where they fit in the development of the law.

Civil Procedure Stories includes a chapter on Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins that includes several photographs of Harry Tompkins and his family, a photograph of the scene that was used as a trial exhibit, and an image of the historical marker at a spot near the scene of the accident in Hughestown, Pennsylvania.

In 1987, Wendy Collins Perdue published an article that included information about the truly wild backstory of Pennoyer v. Neff: Wendy Collins Perdue, Sin, Scandal, and Substantive Due Process: Personal Jurisdiction and Pennoyer Reconsidered, 62 Wash. L. Rev. 479 (1987).

Constitutional Law Cases

Constitutional Law in a Nutshell and Principles of Constitutional Law each have brief summaries of Marbury v. Madison, Wickard v. Filburn, and Brown v. Board of Education.

Constitutional Law Stories includes chapters that explain the interesting backstories of Marbury v. Madison and Wickard v. Filburn.

There have been many books written about the history and impact of Brown, including one we have in print by Waldo Martin called Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents.

Contracts Case

Contracts in a Nutshell and Understanding Contracts both have brief descriptions of Lucy v. Zehmer and where it fits in the development of contract law.

There’s also an interesting 2012 article about the story behind Lucy v. Zehmer: Barak Richman & Dennis Schmelzer, When Money Grew on Trees: Lucy v. Zehmer and Contracting in a Boom Market, 61 Duke L.J. 1511 (2012).

Torts Case

Understanding Torts and Principles of Tort Law each have brief overviews of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.

Much has been written about the story behind Palsgraf, including this book we have in our stacks by William Manz that delves deep into the history of the accident and the case: The Palsgraf Case: Courts, Law, and Society in 1920s New York.


Many thanks to the University of Baltimore Law Library for the inspiration!