904 SP Con Law: Politics & Equality - §001, Fall 2017

Categories: Constitutional Law

Instructor(s) Greene, Linda

This seminar will focus on the extent to which questions of equality are determined or influenced by political processes such as legislation, initiative processes, or political activism such as demonstrations and advocacy. Have political processes defined the content of equality? Have courts imposed limitations on those political determinations of equality or defer to those determinations? The seminar will focus on politics and equality in three contexts: race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

We will explore previous contexts that illustrate the interplay between political processes and equality. I will examine this interplay in three contexts, the political activity leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the opposition to equal measures in the initiative and referendum process, the political activity in support of and against women’s reproductive choice and the increasing resort by opponents of reproductive rights to ballot measures to restrict rights; and the political activity leading to the increase rights for gays and lesbians and the use of the initiative process to constrain or preempt those rights, for example gay and lesbian marriage. At every turn, the question arises whether equality should be defined by political majorities, and whether the role of courts in the oversight of these measures is essential or illegitimate.
We will use legal and non legal sources, including film, to explore these issues. What do does the recent presidential election the election say about equality and politics?

Do the candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and the ascendancy of Barney Frank in Congress mean that we are heading towards a gender, sexual orientation, and race blind society? Does the election of an increasing number of blacks, women, Hispanics and others to elective offices signal the end of political inequality and a corresponding need for a lesser judicial role in the protection of equality? Against the background of these recent electoral developments, what meaning do we ascribe to the numerous anti-affirmative action measures, anti abortion, and anti gay marriage initiatives on the nation’s ballots.

What power does Congress possess to define equality, and has the Supreme Court imposed constraints on its role? In this seminar, we will return time and again to an over arching questions-What is the appropriate role of legislatures, the people, and the courts in defining and protecting Equality. You may begin to think about the issues in the course by reading the following articles on the same sex marriage debate before the beginning of the semester.
Klarman, “Brown and Lawrence and Goodridge” 104 Mich. L. Rev. 431 (2005); and Mary Bonauto, “Goodridge in Context,” 40 Harv. CR-CL 1 (2005).

I will be in touch again to let you know about other course materials and with a tentative seminar syllabus. I look forward to these discussions! Each Student will choose a topic and write a paper which will count for 70% of the grade. The remaining 30% will be based upon class participation and several short (1-2) page writing assignments. Class Participation and Attendance are required and No Pass-Fail grades will be permitted.

POLITICS AND EQUALITY DESIRED LEARNING OUTCOMES

1. I WILL EXPECT YOU TO USE FORMAL LEGAL LANGUAGE IN YOUR WRITTEN AND ORAL PRESENTATIONS TO COMPETENTLY AND CONFIDENTLY

Identify the legal issues raised by the cases we read and the problems we analyze;
Know and apply the analytical steps required for the resolution of the legal issues;
Discuss the cases and materials using complete sentences and legal language in the course of your discussion;
Respond to my questions or those of your colleagues using complete sentences and legal language;
Refrain from using slang;
Describe and analyze majority, dissenting, and plurality opinions

2. WITH RESPECT TO ANY CASES, I WILL EXPECT YOU TO KNOW AND BE ABLE TO COMPETENTLY, CONFIDENTLY, AND FORMALLY DESCRIBE IN COMPLETE SENTENCES:

The circumstances that led to the lawsuit;
The litigants in the lawsuit;
The nature of the overall dispute between the parties;
The constitutional or statutory issue presented by the litigation;
The difference that the resolution of the issue will make to the parties;
How is that issue was resolved;
The rule that the majority applies to resolve the issue;
The court’s application of the rule to the facts of the case;
Whether the rule applied, modified, explained, or changed prior law;
The reason why concurring or dissenting justices disagreed with the majority and whether they propose a different rule;

3. WITH RESPECT TO YOUR WRITTEN OUTLINES AND PRESENTATIONS OF ASSIGNED MATERIALS THROUGHOUT THE COURSE

Prepare a formal outline appropriate for a professional presentation to a legal colleague;
Describe the material you reviewed to prepare your outline;
Describe the issues that you will address
Use headings and subheadings
Use “Blue Book” legal citations in your outline

4. WITH RESPECT TO YOUR SEMINAR PAPER

Write a formal legal paper that addresses a conflict about normative primacy;
Formulate a research question;
Formulate and save your search queries;
Gather and organize data from multiple sources about the role that various institutions play in the competition over the development of equality norms;
Write an introduction that includes a “roadmap” that describes how you plan to explore your topic;
Write a detailed outline of your paper;
Include a table of contents at the outset of the paper;
Use formal legal citation for sources in accord with the Uniform System of Citation Blue Book;
Use and properly cite original sources in the presentation of cases, legislation, executive orders, speeches, initiatives, etc.;
Know and honor the rules against plagiarism;
Write an abstract of your final paper.

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