Categories: Constitutional Law
Past Grade Distributions (Fall '22 and onward)
This course explores constitutional protections of individual rights, focusing on the "Equal Protection" and "Due Process" clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. We will study this through case law with attention to how various actors have understood and interpreted the key constitutional questions, especially the different interpretive approaches to understanding the Constitution.
I teach this course with attention to the idea that what constitutes a good or persuasive constitutional argument depends on one’s methodological perspective as well as one’s social context. In class, we will explore how “what the Constitution means” is often intertwined with the questions of how one chooses to interpret it, which person or institution is performing this interpretation, and why the question is presented in the first place. Important to our study will be an appreciation of the “law in action,” taking into context the social realities, discourses, and political efforts surrounding the key cases. To help us go beyond the doctrinal rules of the law, we will use several non-traditional techniques, including role plays (where students “play” different jurists encountered in the reading), video supplements, internet streaming audio/video, and real life hypotheticals.
By the end of this course, students should:
• Understand how the Equal Protection Clause has been applied in cases alleging race discrimination (including desegregation and affirmative action),
• Understand how the Equal Protection Clause has been applied in cases alleging sex discrimination, as well as other potential grounds for Equal Protection claims such as disability and sexual orientation,
• Understand how the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has been applied in cases asserting fundamental rights such as access to contraception, abortion, sexual activity and marriage,
• Understand the “tiers of scrutiny” used in constitutional review, and what sorts of equal protection challenges trigger which tier,
• Understand some of the prominent methodologies of constitutional interpretation, especially originalism, textualism and the living constitution, and why they would impact the results in individual cases.
• Understand the interaction of constitutional law with historical events, government policy and public opinion.