PLSC 407: Constitutional Law (Module)

In this course, we will study the Supreme Court and constitutional law from a variety of perspectives.  We will study the court in its historical and political context, as one actor among many.  We will study the court as a unique institution, exploring its internal workings and the style of reasoning it applies.  We will also take a philosophical approach and explore the meanings and implications of the court’s jurisprudence on fundamental rights and liberties.

There are four objectives to this course. First, you should develop an understanding of the role of the judiciary in shaping our society and our system of government. Second, you should become familiar with the most important principles of constitutional law. Third, you should develop the ability to summarize court cases into concise legal briefs. Fourth, you should develop an ability to use precedents, logic and evidence to evaluate Supreme Court decisions.

Throughout the course, I would like you to think about this general question: Does the law in America serve as a force for justice, democracy, and liberation or as a bulwark of privilege, oligarchy, and oppression?

Learning Outcomes:

Students will:

1. Demonstrate critical thinking, writing and research skills with respect to Supreme Court jurisprudence.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of approaches to constitutional interpretation.

3. Apply methods of Constitutional interpretation to specific Supreme Court cases.

Required Texts:

Select texts are available on Blackboard.

Texts IN HARD COPY must be brought to class on the day they will be discussed.  Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the day it is discussed.

General Information:

This course will emphasize critical reading and analysis of the assigned texts.  Class meetings will be discussion-oriented, revolving around the presentation and adjudication of cases by all members of the class. Two to four students will present cases, while the rest of us question them and decide the case.  All of this means that readings must be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed.  When you are doing the readings, keep in mind that you will be expected to participate in the debates outlined in the readings, reject some positions, embrace others, and defend the choices you make. During class discussion you are not expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials. But you are expected to participate. No one will be penalized for being wrong or imprecise, for expressing uncertainty or frustration, for changing their minds. But it should be clear that you are trying, that you have done the readings and are working toward a mastery of the material.

Hybrid Structure: This course will meet in person (60%) and online (40%). We will select a time for remote sessions that allows all students to attend.

Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.

Availability:  I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me throughout the semester. I am almost always available to discuss the course material or other life issues.

Course Conduct: In order to build and maintain a supportive and productive learning community, students and instructors must treat one another with respect.

For students, this includes but is not limited to:

  • Being prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day;
  • Regular attendance;
  • Notifying the instructor of any scheduling conflicts;
  • On-time arrival to class;
  • Minimizing trips in and out of the room during class;
  • Minimizing side-conversations;
  • Refraining from use of cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Neither laptops nor tablets may be used in class. Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings. Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent.

Failure to adhere to these expectations – especially if students are disrupting others’ learning or creating an unwelcoming environment – will result in disciplinary measures. For more on University policies on appropriate classroom conduct, see the University of La Verne Catalog.

For instructors, responsibility for building and maintaining a supportive and productive learning community includes but is not limited to:

  • Being accessible to students;
  • Communicating clear expectations for student success;
  • Addressing students respectfully, including use of preferred names and pronouns;
  • Returning graded work in a timely fashion;
  • Creating a open exchange of ideas to which all students are encouraged to contribute;
  • Facilitating the interrogation and critical analysis of ideas, including interrogation of the instructor’s views, biases, and values.

Students are encouraged to report violations of University policy, including sexual misconduct and social justice incidents here:

Evaluation Criteria:

Grades will be based on the following:

  • Think Pieces: 10%
  • Quizzes: 10%
  • Two legal briefs: 10% each
  • Midterm: 20%
  • Final: 30%
  • In-class participation: 10%

Both exams and both legal briefs must be completed to pass this course.

Think Pieces:  Twice a week, students are responsible for writing one double-spaced page on one or more topics in that week’s readings (i.e. the readings scheduled for the following class meetings). The think pieces will be due by midnight on Monday and Wednesday (uploaded to SafeAssign on Blackboard). No think piece is required for the weeks when written briefs are due.

The think pieces will be assessed on a scale of 1-10. A grade of 7-8 indicates that the student has answered the question(s) accurately. A 9-10 is indicative of an accurate answer with critical reflection on the question and specific reference to the text. A 6 indicates that the answer misrepresents the text, while anything below 6 indicates that the question(s) have not been answered. In order to score well on the think pieces, students must cite the text.

Quizzes:  Quizzes will be given periodically.  I will write one question on the board at the end of class.  This question will reflect our discussion and/or the assigned reading for the day.  Students will have ten minutes to answer this question.  The quizzes will be assessed on the same scale used for the think pieces.

Supersized Legal Briefs: Each student must prepare two legal briefs (for guidelines on how to write a traditional brief click here).  The briefs should be about 1500 words in length with approximately 500 words dedicated to the traditional legal brief and approximately 1000 words dedicated to addressing the five questions below.

The cases we read are always abridged.  This means that, when you compose your legal briefs, you will generally need to go somewhat beyond the scope of the course materials.  See, for example, the Cornell Legal Information Institute or SCOTUSblog.  You might also look at law school casebooks or secondary literature on the cases you are researching.

All legal briefs must be submitted to SafeAssign on Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the day the case is argued. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade per day. All papers must be submitted in Microsoft Word. No PDFs.

These briefs are “supersized” because, in addition to completing the traditional elements of a legal brief (see here), students must answer the following five questions.  You should devote approximately 500 words to the traditional brief and 1000 words to these questions:

  1. What are the relevant passages from the Constitution?
  2. Were separation of powers issues and/or federalism implicated in the case?  If so, how?
  3. What method(s) of legal interpretation were applied in the case?
  4. What were the relevant precedents and how were they interpreted?
  5. What was being balanced? (rights v. public welfare, rights v. other rights, etc.)

For each case you brief, you will also make oral arguments in class. The other class members and I will sit as the court, hearing your arguments and asking questions.  For this assignment, students will sometimes work alone, sometimes in groups with two students arguing as a team on each side of the case.  You will be assessed both on your presentation skills and on the brief.  Attendance at the class sessions at which you will present is mandatory and cannot be rearranged or made-up if missed.

When cases are presented in class, each legal team will be given 5-8 minutes to present their principal arguments. Following each presentation, there will be a 5-10 minute question and answer period where the court will pose questions. After both initial presentations are complete, each side will be given 3-5 minutes for a rebuttal. Following rebuttals, the court will deliberate and then decide the case.  Though you are required to write two briefs, you may be asked to make oral arguments for a third case.

Exams: Exams will be a combination of essay, short answer and multiple choice questions.

If you need disability accommodations for an exam or other assignment, please see the instructor as soon as possible. Information regarding disabilities, including learning disabilities, will remain confidential. If you are not sure whether you need special accommodations, please contact the Accessibility Services Department. Information about location and contact numbers can be found here:

Attendance and Participation: Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion. Beyond that, each student’s frequency and quality of contribution to the class discussion will be assessed and reflected in the class participation score. Students who miss more than two classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B). Students who miss more than seven classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+). Students who are in class but do not have the assigned reading IN HARD COPY will be considered absent. Multiple instances of tardiness will also result in a deduction of one-third of a grade.

Late Assignments: Late assignments may be submitted for partial credit, but no assignments will be accepted after the last day of finals week.

Schedule of Meetings and Required Readings:

WEEK 1: October 25-Oct. 31

I. Introduction

II. Judicial Interpretation

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 3-17, 20-26, 31-54, 638-45

Study Questions

  • Why was the Constitution of the United States drafted and ratified? Jaylene, Jennifer
  • What role do separation of powers and balance of powers play in the Constitution? Isabel, Erick
  • What were the arguments against the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution? Michael
  • Why does the Constitution require interpretation? William, Kolani
  • What are the various ways cases can come to the Supreme Court? Briana
  • What are the different approaches to the interpretation of the Constitution?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches? Chris, Sheccid
  • What factors do Supreme Court Justices consider in the adjudication of cases?  What factors should they consider? Kaiya, Ariel
  • What approaches to Constitutional interpretation were used in Gregg v. Georgia? How were they used? Jacqueline

III. Judicial Review

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 769-780, and McCloskey, ch. 1

Case—Gregg v. Georgia

Representing Mr. Gregg______Bree______________________________

Representing the state of Georgia___________Jackie___________________

Study Questions

  • What powers are given to the Supreme Court by the Constitution? Julissa
  • What are the provisions of the Judiciary Act of 1789? Victor
  • What are natural law and positive law? How are they embodied in the Constitution? Luke

WEEK 2: Nov. 1-7

I. Judicial Review (cont’d)

Epstein and Walker, pp. 59-77, McCloskey, ch. 2, Bowie, “SCOTUS Testimony,” (Blackboard), Goldberg (Blackboard), Wilkinson (Blackboard)

Podcast: Kittens Kick the Giggly Blue Robot All Summer

Case—Marbury v. Madison

Representing Mr. Marbury_____Victor______________

Representing Mr. Madison_____Jaylene______________

Study Questions on Epstein and Walker

  • What is judicial independence? Why did the Founders insist on it? Eric
  • What is the countermajoritarian problem? Jennifer
  • What is jurisdiction?  When does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction? Kolani
  • What is a writ of mandamus? What role did this power play in Marbury v. Madison?
  • What questions were at stake in Marbury v. Madison?
  • What was resolved in Marbury v. Madison and what was left unresolved? Jaylene

Study Questions on McCloskey

  • What are McCloskey’s criticisms of formalism? Isabel
  • What are the constraints on judicial power? Michael
  • How did Fletcher v. Peck affect the power of the Supreme Court? William

Study Questions on Bowie

  • How is the Court anti-democratic? Briana
  • How could it be argued that the Court does serve democracy? Chris
  • In what sense are judges aristocrats?
  • How does Bowie define judicial review? Jacqueline
  • Who, according to Bowie, should determine whether laws are constitutional? Julissa
  • How did the Court decide in Brown v. Board of Education? Why is this case not an argument for judicial review? Victor
  • What is the argument for judicial review? Luke
  • When has the Court protected marginalized groups? Mackenzy
  • What, according to Bowie, is the defining principle of democracy? Scheccid
  • How does Bowie answer the claim that the Supreme Court employs a “superior method” for resolving political questions?
  • What reforms to the Court does Bowie support?

Study Questions on the Goldberg-Wilkinson Debate

  • What is Goldberg’s argument against majoritarianism?
  • What is ideological constitutionalism? What is Wilkinson’s critique of it? Kaiya
  • How do the arguments of ideological constitutionalists beg the question?
  • What is the most basic problem political institutions must solve? Ariel

II. Constraints on Judicial Power

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 77-88;  McCloskey, ch. 3; Rucho v. Common Cause (two Readings on Bb)

Podcast: The Political Thicket

Study Questions

On Epstein and Walker

  • What constraints does Article III place on judicial power? Jennifer, Chris
  • What are original and appellate jurisdiction? Michael, Mackenzy
  • What was at stake in Ex parte McCardle? Ariel
  • What is justiciability? Give an example. Kolani, Kaiya
  • What is the political questions doctrine? Can a clear line be drawn between “political” and “legal” questions? See Baker v. Carr (1962) and Rucho v. Common Cause (2019) Isabel, Luke
  • What is standing? Who has it? Sheccid

On McCloskey

  • How was the Court able to become the final arbiter of constitutionality? Bree, Erick
  • What was at stake in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee? Jackie
  • What was at stake in McCulloch v. Maryland? Victor, Jaylene

WEEK 3: Nov. 8-Nov. 14

I. The Legislature

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 89-129, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (2022) (Two Readings on Bb)

Podcast: Strict Scrutiny, “I Don’t Wanna,” beginning through 44:14

  • Is it the American people or the states that empower the Constitution? William
  • Is Congressional power limited to that which is explicitly stated in the Constitution? Julissa
  • Can Congress add qualifications to serve in Congress beyond those specified in Article I?  Answer with reference to Powell v. McCormack and/or U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton. Michael
  • What is the “implied powers” doctrine? Mackenzy
  • Why did Justice Marshall believe McCulloch v. Maryland was his most important decision?  Why was Thomas Jefferson opposed to the decision? Ariel
  • What is the purpose of the power to investigate?  What are the limits on Congress’s power to investigate?  Answer with reference to Barenblatt v. U.S. Kolani
  • What is Justice Black’s argument in his dissent to Barenblatt? Kaiya
  • Why would Congress ever want to delegate powers given to it by the Constitution?  Under what circumstances is the delegation of power permitted? Isabel
  • What is the major questions doctrine? How does John Roberts invoke it in West Virginia v. EPA? Luke
  • On what basis does Elena Kagan argue that the Court should not be hearing West Virginia v. EPA? Scheccid
  • What is the legislative veto?  Is it constitutional?  Answer with reference to INS v. Chadha. Bree

II. The Executive

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 131-170, 175-183

Case—Clinton v. Jones

Representing Mr. Clinton____________Isabel______________________

Representing Ms. Jones_______Kaiya________________________

  • What are the “mere designation of office” theory and the “general grant of power” theory?  What implications does each one have for executive power? Eric
  • Are there any circumstances under which the President may refuse to enforce a law?  Answer with reference to Train v. City of New York. Jackie
  • What is the line-item veto?  Is it constitutional?  Answer with reference to Clinton v. City of New York. Victor
  • What are executive privilege and executive immunity?  What are the limitations on each one? Answer with reference to Mississippi v. Johnson, Nixon v. Fitzgerald, and/or Clinton v. Jones. Jaylene
  • Does the President require Congressional approval to send soldiers to war?  Answer with reference to the War Powers Act? Jennifer
  • What is habeas corpus? On what grounds may it be delayed, denied, or deferred? Chris
  • What are enemy combatants? How, if at all, do their rights differ from those of American citizens? Michael
  • Do the powers of the President expand in an emergency?  Answer with reference to Ex Parte Milligan, Ex Parte Quirin, Korematsu v. U.S., and/or, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Mackenzy

WEEK 4 Nov. 15-21

I. Federalism

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 187-205, 225-29 McCloskey, ch. 4

Case—Hammer v. Dagenhart

Representing Hammer_______Victor________________________

Representing Dagenhart__________Jaylene____________________

On Epstein and Walker

  • Is the Constitution a contract among the people of the United States or among the states? What are the arguments on either side? Ariel
  • What was the purpose of the 10th Amendment? Kolani
  • What are exclusive and concurrent powers? Kaiya
  • What are the theories of dual federalism and cooperative federalism? Isabel
  • Summarize Justice Taney’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford? Luke
  • How did the Court interpret the commerce clause in Hammer v. Dagenhart? Sheccid

On McCloskey

  • Under Taney (prior to Dred Scott) how did the “position of the Court become even more secure?” Bree
  • Why did Dred Scott disempower the Supreme Court as a political institution? Eric

II. Commerce Power

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 214-21, 221-25, 229-256, 262-68, 273-82

Podcast: One Nation, Under Money

Case—United States v. Lopez

Representing the United States______Kaiya_____________________

Representing Mr. Lopez_________Chris_______________________

  • What is commerce?  Answer with reference to Gibbons v. Ogden. Jackie
  • When does commerce become interstate, according to Justice Marshall? Jennifer
  • What is the doctrine of “direct effects?”  How does it compare with the “stream of commerce” doctrine? Chris
  • What was the “switch in time that saved nine?”  How did it affect the Court’s interpretation of the commerce clause? William
  • How did the Court limit Congress’s power to regulate commerce in U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison? Julissa
  • What was the basis of the Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius? Jennifer
  • Why did lawmakers turn to the commerce clause to legislate civil liberties? Why didn’t they rely on the 14th Amendment? Michael
  • What was Congress’s legal rationale for the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act? Answer with reference to Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S. and Katzenbach v. McClung. Ariel

WEEK 5: Nov. 22-28


II. The Contract Clause

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 313-32

Case—Home Building and Loan Association v. Blaisdell

Representing the home builders________________________

Representing Mr. Blaisdell_____________________________

  • Why were contracts so often broken around the time of the Founding? Kolani
  • What was the basis of Marshall’s decision in Fletcher v. Peck? Isabel
  • How did the Taney Court modify the Marshall Court’s doctrine on the contract clause? Sheccid
  • What did the Court weigh against the plaintiffs’ contract clause arguments in Charles River Bridge and Stone v. Mississippi? Bree
  • How did interpretation of the contract clause change during the Great Depression? Jackie
  • Does the meaning of the Constitution change during times of emergency?  Answer with reference to Home Building and Loan Association v. Blaisdell? Victor

III. Substantive Due Process

Reading:  Epstein and Walker, pp. 333-54, McCloskey, chs. 5-6

Case—Lochner v. New York

Representing Mr. Lochner____________Kolani___________________

Representing the state of New York______Mackenzy____________________

  • Questions on Epstein and Walker
    • What is the difference between procedural and substantive due process? Chris
    • Why is substantive due process a largely discredited doctrine? Mackenzy
    • What is social Darwinism?  How did it impact Constitutional jurisprudence? Kaiya
    • What was the basis of the  Court’s decision in Lochner v. New York? Luke
    • Is the Muller decision consistent with Lochner or are the two decisions incompatible?  Why? Erick
    • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital? Jaylene
    • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish? William
    • What is the “rational basis test?” Julissa

WEEK 6: Nov. 29-Dec.5

I. Religion (Free Exercise)

Reading:  Epstein and Walker, pp. 382-402, McCloskey ch. 7, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) (follow link)

Case—Oregon v. Smith

Representing the state of Oregon______Ariel_________________________

Representing Mr. Smith________Sheccid___________________________

  • Questions on Epstein and Walker
    • How does the standard of a “valid secular policy” limit freedom of religion? Jennifer
    • How does the distinction between belief and action limit freedom of religion? Michael
    • On what grounds has the Court held that public school students can be compelled to recite the pledge of allegiance? Ariel
    • What is the Sherbert-Yoder Compelling Interest Test? Is it more or less restrictive of religious liberty than the “valid secular policy” standard? Kolani
    • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Oregon v. Smith? Isabel
    • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby? How did the Court’s rationale in this decision differ from its rationale in Oregon v. Smith? Sheccid
  • Questions on McCloskey
    • After 1937, where did the Court define a role for itself? Bree
    • Was the Court’s approach to freedom of expression consistent with Justice Stone’s famous footnote in Carolene Products? Jackie
    • How did the Court intervene on issues of racial discrimination during this period? Victor

II. Religion (Establishment)

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 402-35

Case—School District of Abington Township v. Schempp

Representing the School District__________Isabel____________________________

Representing Mr. Schempp_____Bree_______________________________

  • How might the establishment clause come into conflict with the free exercise clause? Chris
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education? Mackenzy
  • What is the Lemon Test? Kaiya
  • Under what circumstances, if any, is prayer in public schools constitutional? Luke
  • In avoiding the establishment of religion, has the Court infringed on free exercise? Erick
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Abbington v. Schempp? Jaylene
  • When, if ever, are religious displays permitted in public places? Julissa

III. The Right to Privacy: Abortion

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 543-569, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) (Two readings on Bb)

Case—Roe v. Wade

Representing Ms. Roe___________Luke, Jennifer________________________

Representing Dallas County______Erick, Julissa__________________________

  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut? What was the basis of Justice Black’s dissent? Jennifer
  • Where, if anywhere, does the Constitution protect a right of privacy? Michael
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade? What values did the Court balance? How did it balance those values? Ariel
  • How has the right to abortion been limited since Roe? Kolani
  • Explain the “undue burden” standard invoked by Justice O’Connor in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Isabel
  • On what grounds did Samuel Alito argue that Roe and Casey had been wrongly decided in Dobbs? Sheccid

IV. Gay Rights

Reading:  Epstein and Walker, pp. 569-78; 691-703; McCloskey, Epilogue, Same Sex Marriage (Blackboard)

Case—Obergefell v. Hodges

Representing Obergefell_______Ariel_______________________________

Representing Hodges__________Jackie__________________________

  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Bowers v. Hardwick? Bree
  • What was the basis of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas? How did Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion differ? What was the basis of Justice Scalia’s dissent? Of Justice Thomas’ dissent? Jackie
  • What was the basis of Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell? What was the basis of Justice Roberts’ dissent? Victor

WEEK 7: Dec. 6-12

I. Rights of the Accused

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 624-631, 635-638, McCloskey, ch. 8

Podcast: Cruel and Unusual

Case—Gideon v. Wainwright

Representing Mr. Gideon__________Michael______________________

Representing Mr. Wainwright________Jennifer_________________________

On Epstein and Walker

  • Historically, what has the right to counsel guaranteed? How did Gideon v. Wainwright change this? Chris
  • What did the Framers intend to ban through the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment? Mackenzy
  • Does the death penalty constitute cruel and unusual punishment?  What are the arguments for and against this claim? Kaiya

On Mcloskey (Levinson)

  • How do you think McCloskey would have evaluated the Warren Court? Luke
  • What is incorporation? Erick
  • Why did Oliver Wendell Holmes called equal protection is “the usual last resort of constitutional arguments?” Jaylene

II. Civil Rights (Discrimination)

Reading: Epstein and Walker, pp. 657-677, 685-691, 725-31; Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado (2018) (Blackboard, two readings)

Case—Shelby County v. Holder

Representing Shelby County____________Kolani____________________

Representing the Federal Government______Scheccid, William____________________

  • What are civil rights? How are they different from civil liberties? William
  • What does the equal protection clause mandate?  What is required to make an equal protection claim? Julissa
  • What is discrimination?  When is discrimination justified? Jennifer
  • What are the rational basis test, strict scrutiny, and compelling state interest?  How do these standards differ in the way they constrain state action? Michael
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson? Ariel
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education? Kolani
  • In Brown, the NAACP contended that schools could not be “separate but equal,” that separate schools are inherently unequal.  Do you agree? Isabel
  • Should the Court use sociological evidence? Sheccid
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder? Bree
  • Does the Constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of income?  Discuss with reference to San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. Jackie
  • Does the Constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? Discuss with reference to Romer v. Evans and Masterpiece Cakeshop. Victor

III. Civil Rights (Affirmative Action)

Reading:  Epstein and Walker, pp. 703-719, McCloskey, ch. 9

Case—Grutter v. Bollinger

Representing Ms. Grutter _________Mackenzy______________________________

Representing the University of Michigan _____Luke__________________________

Study Questions

On Epstein and Walker

  • Must justice be color blind, as Justice Harlan argued in his dissent to Plessy? Chris
  • What is affirmative action? Mackenzy
  • Was Alan Bakke a victim of racial discrimination? Kaiya
  • Do affirmative action programs meet the standard of strict scrutiny? Luke
  • Under what conditions is affirmative action constitutional?  Answer with reference to UC Regents v. Bakke and Grutter v. Bollinger? Erick

WEEK 8: Dec. 13-15

I. Right to Bear Arms

Reading:  District of Columbia v. Heller pp. 533-41, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022) (Two readings on Bb)

Podcast: The Right to Bear Arms

On District of Columbia v. Heller

Case—District of Columbia v. Heller

Representing DC_______Erick________________________

Representing Heller______William, Julissa______________

  • What is the preamble of the Second Amendment?  To what extent does it constrain the rest? Jaylene
  • Does the Constitution guarantee a collective right to a militia or an individual right to bear arms? Answer with respect to District of Columbia v. Heller? William
  • In the aftermath of Heller, how much may the state constitutionally regulate the possession of firearms? Julissa
  • How does Bruen extend the reasoning of the majority in Heller? Kaiya

II. Election Campaign Regulation

Reading:  Epstein and Walker, pp. 735-43

Podcast: Citizens United

Case—Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Representing Citizens United__________Michael_____________________

Representing the Federal Election Commission_________Chris___________

  • What standard of protection do campaign contributions warrant? Jennifer
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo? Michael
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission? Ariel
  • What was the basis of the Court’s decision in Citizen’s United v. FEC? Kolani

WEEK 8: Dec. 13-15

“A New Constitution for the United States of America” (Blackboard)

  • What changes do the framers of the New Constitution make to the prologue? Isabel
  • Which rights are added to the New Constitution? Which rights are removed? Sheccid
  • What changes do the framers of the New Constitution make to the legislative branch? Bree
  • How do the framers of the New Constitution change the administration of elections? Jackie
  • How do the framers of the New Constitution alter the judiciary? Victor
  • How do the framers of the New Constitution change the amendment process? Chris

Jamal Greene, How Rights Went Wrong (Blackboard)

  • What does it mean to have a right? Mackenzy, Jaylene
  • Why is it dangerous to give rights strong protection? William
  • Describe Greene’s strategy of mediation with respect to rights. Luke
  • What are the advantages of recognizing more rights but giving them weaker protection? Erick, Julissa

Final Exam

ADVICE NOTES: Please go to Blackboard Discussions and leave a note for students who take this class in the future.

Style Guide:

The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk). Here you can access the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Here are a couple of websites that will automatically format citations in Chicago style for you: and

Exam Proctoring Guidelines:

  1. One seat space between students when possible.
  2. No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency.  Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.
  3. No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
  4. Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
  5. Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A— designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B— designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C— designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D— designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F— designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy.

Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.
  • Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.
  • Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.
  • The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.


The Academic Success Center provides free one-on-one peer tutoring to graduate and undergraduate students in a wide variety of courses and subjects. Please make liberal use of the ASC if you need assistance with any of the assignments for this course. To make an appointment, use the quick start guide, stop by ASC on the second floor of the Campus Center, or call (909) 448-4342. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here.