Categories: Constitutional Law

Instructor(s) Althouse, Ann

This course explores constitutional protections of individual rights. Most of our time will be spent contemplating the "Equal Protection" and "Due Process" clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Our analysis of the Equal Protection clause will address race (including the related issues of desegregation and affirmative action) and gender discrimination, as well as other potential bases of equal protection claims such as disability and sexual orientation. Next, we will consider the fundamental rights recognized as part of the Due Process Clause, covering the constitutional protection of contraception, abortion, and sexual activity.

I teach this course with attention to the idea that what constitutes a good or persuasive constitutional argument has changed and will continue to change over time. In class, we will explore how “what the Constitution means” is often intertwined with the questions of how one chooses to interpret it, who is the person or institution performing this interpretation, and why the question is presented in the first place. Important to our study will be an appreciation of the “law in action,” taking into account the history, social realities, discourses, and political efforts surrounding the key cases. To help us go beyond the doctrinal rules of the law, we will use several non-traditional techniques, including role plays (where students literally wear the hat of a constitutional interpreter), video supplements, internet streaming audio/video, and real life hypotheticals.

I expect students to come to class prepared to articulate the relevant constitutional rulings as well as your own analyses of the issues. The goal is an interactive classroom environment that is demanding yet open and alive.

Textbook: Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials, edited by Paul Brest, Sanford Levinson, Jack Balkin, Akhil Amar, & Reva Siegel

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