This course will be an exercise in ‘constitutionalism’. The course will address not only court opinions interpreting the State constitution, but will spend significant time with the document itself. We will cover the history of the document from its initial drafting through amendment exercises, including currently proposed amendments. The class will actually read the State Constitution and discuss its historical context, overall logic, and meaning: i.e., is this document one of restricted, expressly enumerated powers; or is it a wholesale grant of plenary authority (or power) to the government institutions it establishes? We will do a textual analysis particularly focusing on the relationships between and among various Articles, sections, and provisions. While we all have learned the importance of the basic ‘separation of powers’ between legislative, executive, and judicial functions, this course will teach that, as important as it is to separate powers in government, perhaps it is equally if not even more important to separate powers from government. As a result we will study the relationship(s) between the constitution and the ‘liberty sphere’ where the citizenry, property, and societal institutions reside (i.e., corporations, unions, families, marriages, religions, churches, political parties, etc.)
The course will focus on certain constitutional provisions and developments unique or peculiar to our State’s constitution, including legislative committees playing a participant role in the executive or administrative process even after enactment of a law; legislators having standing to file suit; the idea of the ‘constitutional office’; the ever-looming ‘partial-veto’; the lengthy provisions on non-governmental social issues du jour – i.e., gaming, the Public Trust Doctrine, anti-gay marriage, as well as other hot-button issues today: redistricting, selection of judges, open meetings, resurrecting a meaningful State Bill of Rights, and the constitutional amendment process. Additional readings may include a book by Professor Dinan on State constitutions generally as well as several law review articles on the Wisconsin Constitution.
The course, however, will not be all constitutional theory. We will study how law is made is Wisconsin. We will study the structure and processes of the Wisconsin court system. We will look at administrative processes in general including, for example, our contested rule-making requirements. Several guest speakers will be invited to present on their respective areas of government practice or expertise.
The course will be offered for 2 or 3 credit option. Both the 2 and 3-credit requirements will include one two hour class session per week and a two-hour final exam. The 3-credit requirement will add a paper from 5 to 7 (10-15 double-spaced) page paper.