This course will introduce students to several foundational questions in the study of American constitutional politics and to techniques of constitutional interpretation. What are the political implications of a written constitution designed to limit the power of the national government? What is the role of the Supreme Court (and judges more generally) in ensuring an appropriate balance of national and state power? What does it mean to have a system that "separates" power? And what is the role of the judiciary in policing this separation of powers at the national level, in peacetime and in wartime? Should judges be engaged in these efforts at all? If so, why? If not, why not?
The objectives of this course are to: (1) introduce students to the core principles of constitutional law as developed under the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment, and civil rights legislation, (2) introduce students to the core principles of privacy and equal protection as developed under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and various forms of civil rights legislation; (3) apply these principles to a variety of contextual settings, (4) understand the judiciary as part of the political process, and (5) provide the basic tools for legal research, writing, and debate. In addition to these objectives, this course is designed to be a forum for discussing current political issues within a constitutional framework. Students are encouraged to follow news events and to incorporate these items into class discussion. Many topics in this course -- war-making authority, states’ rights, and national security -- have generated considerable public debate.
Instructor: Roy Ulrich