Class Meets: 11:00-12:15, Tuesday and Thursday, CR210
Office Hours: 12:15-12:45, Tuesdays and Thursdays
The purpose of this course is to systematically analyze our governing charter and the laws emanating from it. As our understanding of the contentious topics of the day would be incomplete and ill-informed in the absence of a command of the constitution itself, we will begin the semester with an inquiry into the document. Understanding what it says will help us comprehend what it means, not only to us, but to the Court and to the public. This understanding of constitutional text and interpretation will extend into the realm of individual rights. The main text for the class, Rights, Liberties, and Justice, will guide our analysis of cases involving the freedoms as speech, press, and religion, the rights of the criminally accused, as well as due process, equal protection, and voting rights. Because constitutional law can change abruptly and annually, you will be required to use a variety of outside sources to access and assess recent developments on the Court and in its decisions and reasoning. The combination of books, articles, cases, and actual oral arguments selected --and required-- for this class are intended to stimulate interest and inquiry into what the Court does, why it does it, and what impact it has on law and society.
Student Learning Outcomes:
Students will locate, cite, and analyze selected decisions and opinions of the United States Supreme Court.
Students will correctly identify key doctrinal changes in various areas of constitutional law.
Students will critically assess the policy-making role of the Court and the impact of judicial decisions on law and society.
Constitutional law is best learned through discovery and debate, not a series of lectures. While a certain amount of lecturing is inevitable, this class will operate mostly in accordance with the Socratic Method. As such, I will work to facilitate discussion and problem-solving. I expect participation daily, and there will be several group activities throughout the semester. You will be expected complete all readings assignments and other assignments prior to class and should feel free to speak up at (almost) any time. (Please refer to civility policy, below).
Given the nature of this class and the exam schedule, you should make it a point to attend every class session. You can not make up lost points for inadequate participation, and you can not make up any exams. Please refer to attendance policy, below.
As the table below indicates, there is only one exam --the final-- and it actually is a semester-long project that you will submit on the day and at the time dedicated to the final exam. The point of the project will be to create a "year in review" of the cases heard and decisions delivered by the United States Supreme Court. Granted, the Court's term will probably during the last days of June, but by the first week of May, you will have had a remarkable opportunity to demonstrate a knowledge of the docket, key cases in significant areas of jurisprudence, and even several decisions. and for the cases not yet decided? An opportunity to predict the outcome. More about this will be said and distributed in class.
You will also notice that there are approximately 10 major themes we will explore this semester, and several of them include related topics (e.g.: the freedom of religion has two clauses; privacy and abortion rights flow nicely together). Instead of having a couple of exams that require you to combine and potentially confuse content, or me to make unfair choices as to what I test and what I don't, we are going to test and demonstrate knowledge through a variety of assignments (assume 8) --some in-class, some out of class; some individual, some group-based; some in written form, some participation-based. We will discuss the best options for each area as the dates draw near. Yes, you will have some input, and yes, if you snooze (fail to show up or complete an assignment) you lose (you get a zero). ALL WRITTEN WORK FOR ASSIGNMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED THROUGH THE CLASS DROPBOX. YOU CAN DO SO BY CLICKING THE DROPBOX LINK AT THE TOP OF THIS DOCUMENT.
Please note that the pace and interests of the class --and the inevitability of Supreme Court decisions-- will influence and alter what we cover, when we cover it, and the amount of depth provided. Also, while complete chapters are given for each section, please note that we will work through the book selectively and rely on a lot of outside sources which are not, yet, included. This will be discussed in class. Recall that specific information about the exams, assignments, and presentations will be provided as each is assigned.
|Topic||Read||Assignment||Percent of Grade|
|Introduction: The Constitution and the Supreme Court||The Constitution|
|Understanding and Interpreting the Constitution||TBA||Assignment 1||10%|
|Incorporation of the Bill of Rights||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 3|
|Religion: Exercise and Establishment. Some establishment clause perspective||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 4||Assignment 2||10%|
|Speech, Assembly, and Association||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 5||Assignment 3||10%|
|Press||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 6||Assignment 4||10%|
|Obscenity and Libel||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 7||Assignment 5||10%|
|Privacy and Abortion||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 9||Assignment 6||10%|
|Rights of the Criminally Accused||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 10&11||Assignment 7||10%|
|Discrimination and Equal Protection||Rights, Liberties, and Justice, Ch 12||Assignment 8||10%|
|Supreme Court Year in Review||Everything, then write, A lot.||Final/Project Due||20%|
Expectations and Policies
Attendance: While attendance per se cannot be required of students, there are consequences associated with absences. Missed assignments, for example, cannot be made up. If you fail to submit an assignment you earn zero points. If you are not present when you are expected to participate in class discussion or to lead discussion, you will lose all of the points for that as well. Having said that, please do not hesitate to contact me about any issues relating to your ability to participate fully in this class. Reasonable accommodations can be made for excused absences, but it is your responsibility to keep me posted. For the official rules governing attendance, please refer to the Student Undergraduate Bulletin.
Academic Dishonesty: the Undergraduate Bulletin defines academic dishonesty as "...those acts which would deceive, cheat, or defraud so as to promote one's scholastic record...", and states that "[v]iolations of academic honesty represent a serious breach of discipline and may be considered grounds for disciplinary actions, including dismissal from the university." The most basic form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism. Plagiarism involves the application or inclusion of the work of others that is not properly cited. In the vernacular it is called "copying". Cutting and pasting someone else's work is not acceptable. Neither is copying or slightly modifying even small parts of text, imagery, etc. Work that is not your own needs to be documented as such. It is important to avoiding cheating in any way. There are consequences for such action and they are severe.
Civility: It is our collective responsibility to establish and maintain an environment of mutual respect in the classroom and in our various modes of communication. As a college class that addresses contentious and divisive issues, we will all, inevitably, be shocked from time-to-time. That's fine: We need a good and fertile marketplace of ideas, but we must not contaminate it. Discussion should be wide open and robust but should never involve personal attacks or language that demeans any category of persons however defined. Words or actions that are threatening, racist, sexist, or discriminatory in any way are impermissible in this class. Violations of civility will be addressed by the instructor immediately and may also be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Please see relevant information at: http://www6.semo.edu/judicialaffairs/. Other things to bear in mind is that civility involves creating a place where learning occurs without distraction. As such, you are NOT permitted to use cell phones for any purpose other than genuine emergencies in this class. You may not make or receive cell calls, text messages, wear "ear pieces" for ipod and related devices, or use any recording device of any kind (picture or sound recording) in this class. You may attack arguments but not people. In other words: no ad hominem attacks.
Disabilities: One potential caveat to the rule barring recording devices pertains to University-documented disabilities. While it is the responsibility of the student to inform the faculty of any physical or learning disabilities, I would like to refer students to http://www.semo.edu/cs/services/lec.htm for information regarding support services for learning assistance and disabilities.
Practical Advice: Questions, comments or requests regarding this course or program should be taken to your instructor. Unanswered questions or unresolved issues involving this class may be taken to Hamner Hill, Chair of the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion.
State v. McNeely