Categories: Constitutional Law
This class is an introduction to the basic constitutional structure of government in the United States. We will study this through a historical-legal analysis of how various actors have understood and interpreted constitutional questions about the allocation of power and authority in the United States. Important to our study will be an appreciation of the roles of different American institutions, as well as the different interpretive approaches that individuals have taken in reading the Constitution, and how these have all changed (or not changed) over time.
By the end of this course, students should:
- Understand the basic structure of government set up by the Constitution, especially the separation of federal powers and the relationship of federal and state power in our system of federalism
- Understand basic concepts involved in elaborating the details of the constitutional allocation of power, including the role of the federal courts and judicial review, the difference between law and policy, the doctrine of enumerated powers, and the nature of executive power
- Understand the scope of some specific enumerated powers (taxing and spending, and commerce clause) as well as how this has changed over time, and why
- 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.
- Appreciate how and why our understanding of the Constitution seems to change over time