Categories: Constitutional Law
Past Grade Distributions (Fall '22 and onward)
This course is designed to enable students to understand the rights contained in the Bill of Rights by adopting a comparative approach to explore the jurisprudence of constitutional rights. The course covers civil and individual rights at the federal level with an emphasis is on the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, including substantive due process, privacy, discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference and other characteristics, fundamental rights, and affirmative action. The 1st Amendment is also reviewed, including the freedoms of speech and the press. The 5th Amend right to property and the protection of social and economic rights will also be considered. The comparative approach uses three other jurisdictions to explore how these different constitutional systems protect and interpret rights in ways similar and distinct from our approach to the Bill of Rights in our constitution. While all four jurisdictions (including the United States) are rooted in the common law legal tradition and share a history of colonial settlement and English public law, their respective approaches to the protection and interpretation of specific rights provides a unique opportunity to explore the idea and practice of constitutional rights and to see how similar rights may be understood and shaped depending on the different historical, social and institutional contexts in which they are recognized. The comparative approach is also used to highlight and distinguish the different interpretative approaches judges use to understand the meaning and development of constitutional provisions over time and in changing contexts.
By the end of this course students should:
1) Have a thorough understanding of the origins and development of the Bill of Rights;
2) Understand the relationship between the federal structure of the constitution and the protection of rights;
3) Be able to distinguish the particular ways in which the Constitution recognizes and upholds fundamental rights through the protection of due process, equality and liberty;
4) Be able to compare and contrast the role of the courts in the protection of democracy and individual rights;
5) Understand the role of different constitutional branches, the courts, legislature and executive in the advancement and protection of rights;
6) Be able to compare the protection of individual rights with concerns of minority communities whose policy preferences and rights are less likely to gain recognition through democratic contestation;
7) Appreciate the distinction between how rights are protected in the United States as compared to three other Anglo-American common law jurisdictions: Australia, Canada and South Africa, all of which use the common law method and share the Anglo-American legal tradition yet have quite different approaches to the protection of rights.