Constitutional Law II
Political Science 416
Dr. Sean F. Evans
Office: PAC A-38
Phone: (731) 661-5237
While most people believe that constitutional interpretation is a rather simple process of comparing the legislation to the Constitution and determining if the former confirms to the latter, the above example suggests that constitutional interpretation is not that clear cut. Moreover, this example indicates that your answer has profound social, political, and economic consequences.
These questions of what rights the
Constitution gives individuals, citizens or non-citizens,
and how the court comes to these conclusions is the main focus of this
course. Consequently, this course is an
examination of constitutional interpretation and development in the
The second semester of this sequence
focuses on the “rights constitution.” We
tend to think of the Supreme Court and the Constitution primarily in terms of
civil and individual rights. However,
for most of its history, the Court focused almost exclusively on questions of
structure and process in American government.
It was not until this century, and particularly the
This course uses a combination of case, historical, and political analysis and materials. Court cases, legislation, and executive orders are the primary source materials of constitutional lawmaking. This material allows you to evaluate first-hand the theory and practice underlying constitutional principles. At first, cases are difficult to read. The workload might seem burdensome in the first weeks, but we will spend time working closely with the text so that you can learn how to analyze cases. By the end of the course, you will understand better the nature of our constitutional system and have the background necessary for further inquiry. Most of the material is found in the following textbook available at the Lifeway Bookstore.
O’Brien, David M. 2005. Constitutional Law and Politics: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, 6th ed. NY: Norton.
Grading. Your grade for this course will come from three exams, your legal brief and oral presentation, and your participation. The dates for the exams are listed on the syllabus so make sure that you attend those days. I do not give make-ups unless you have a university-authorized excuse. Each exam is worth 20% of your grade and the exams are cumulative. Failure to take an exam means that your final will count twice. Moreover, when and/or if I curve test or final grades, I reserve the right to withhold the curve from students who never attend class.
Once grades are returned, you must wait 24 hours before discussing a grade with me. This serves as a time for you to cool off and to determine what you may have done wrong. After this time, I am more than happy to talk with you about what you did wrong and discuss how you can improve over the remainder of the semester. If I make a mistake, I will rectify that, but I do not engage in point grubbing.
As with all of my classes, if you make substantial improvement over the course of the semester, I am willing to forget your earlier grades. Learning is a process and it is more important what you know at the end than what you know at the beginning. Hopefully, this class will improve your analytical and communication skills so that you become a successful attorney or something else equally fulfilling.
Participation. It is absolutely essential for you to study these materials carefully. The approach in this course is interactive and interrogatory. You will be expected to participate actively in a dialogue as I lecture infrequently. In this respect, I will treat this class much like law school. While this is not a law school, most of you are interested in law school. Therefore, I want to familiarize you with some of their practices. There, the professors do not tolerate a lack of preparation and non-participation. Neither will I. Therefore, you will get three passes (I am not prepared). On the third "I am not prepared" and for every two after that, your grade will drop one letter grade. In determining "I am not prepared," it can be as simple as you saying that or it will be my determination by your fumbling and obvious unfamiliarity with the case.
Class participation is worth 10% of your grade. In assessing participation, students who attend class but do not participate earn a D in participation. Those who show they read but show a superficial understanding receive a C. Those who read and show they understand the material in discussions receive a B for participation and those who excel by showing a thorough understanding of readings and an ability to connect concepts across lectures, readings, and discussions receive an A for participation.
To aid in this endeavor, students will brief cases in the format to be discussed Feb. 9. Each student will sign up for a case, write the appropriate brief, and email to your colleagues and myself by the day before class. While different individuals are responsible for briefing certain cases, you are responsible for all cases. That means that you should come prepared to discuss all cases because questions concerning the cases will be directed to all students.
Legal Brief. An important part of a legal career is communicating your ideas to others: clients, colleagues, members of the judicial system. To aid you in this endeavor, each individual will be required to write a 15-20 page brief and argue your case before a three-judge panel at the end of the semester. By March 7th, individuals will sign up for a case that s/he wishes to argue. Students will then write a brief that identifies the legal question(s), cites the appropriate authorities, presents your arguments, and refutes your opponent's arguments. I will present more detailed information concerning the formatting and content at a later date. Draft briefs will be due April 18 with final drafts due May 2. On May 2, I will need four copies of your brief (one for each judge and one for your opponent). Oral arguments will take place at the end of the semester. Each side for each case will have 15 minutes to present their case to the judicial tribunal. During this time, the court may let you talk non-stop or, more likely, will pepper you with questions.
Cheating. Don’t do it. Anyone caught cheating will receive an automatic F for the course and will be referred to the appropriate authorities for punishment.
Extracurricular. Students are expected to attend any special political events this semester. This includes Union Pre-Law Society meetings.
Special Needs. If you have any special needs that will affect your ability to learn in this class, please inform me and I will take the appropriate steps to help you.
The Syllabus. I reserve the right and prerogative to modify the syllabus in accordance with student needs. The syllabus should not be construed as a contract.
Feb. 2 Introduction
Feb. 7 Interpreting the Constitution
Feb. 9 Judicial Decision Making & Briefing Cases
O’Brien, pp. 1583-86 & Handout
Feb. 14 The Nationalization of the Bill of Rights
Feb. 16 Judicial Approaches to the First Amendment
Feb. 21 Obscenity
Feb. 23 Libel, Commercial Speech, and Broadcast Media
Feb. 28 The Free Press
March 2 Symbolic Speech and Rights of Association
March 7 Establishment Clause
Van Orden v Perry (2005) & McCreary v ACLU (2005) in handout
Choose case to brief and argue
March 9 Free Exercise Clause
March 14 Catch up and review
March 16 First Midterm
March 20 – 24 Spring Break
March 28 Search and Seizure
March 30 Search and Seizure
April 4 Search and Seizure
April 6 Self-Accusation
April 11 Right to Counsel
April 13 Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Roper v Simmons (2005) in handout
April 18 Catch up and review
Draft of Legal Brief Due
April 20 Second Midterm
April 25 Right to Privacy
April 27 Equal Protection -- Race
May 2 Equal Protection – Race
Legal Brief Due
May 4 Equal Protection – Non-racial classifications
May 9 Catch up and review
May 11 Final Exam
May 18 Oral arguments 8:30-10 am