Categories: Constitutional Law
Course Page for Fall 2016 - Althouse, Ann
Covers the basic structure of government in the United States, with emphasis on the federal government. Includes the role of the federal courts and the doctrine of judicial review; the rise of federal power, as reflected particularly in shifting definitions of "interstate commerce," the doctrine of separation of powers, with emphasis on current issues of legislative and executive branch authority; and judicial and other limitations on the exercise of authority by the states.
In addition to learning the doctrine in this area, the goals of this class are:
1. To understand how courts derive doctrine from the text of the Constitution, from the historical materials, from precedent, from practical and ethical considerations, and from reasoning about the capacity of the judiciary in relation to the legislature and the executive,
2. To understand the Supreme Court as an institution that has changed over the course of American history and that is composed of different individuals who have varying approaches to interpreting the Constitution and who do not always completely, clearly, or correctly explain their reasoning in the written opinions that we must rely upon,
3. To learn how to express yourself clearly and persuasively within the professional discourse of constitutional law, and
4. To prepare yourself to absorb the changes in constitutional law that will occur as it evolves over the
course of your career.
Recent Offerings of this course by this instructor
Course Page for Fall 2016 -
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