Seth W Greenfest
Growth and development of the United States Constitution as reflected in decisions of the Supreme Court; political, social, and economic effects. Offered: jointly with POL S 360.
Description: This course on constitutional law examines the role of the United States federal courts in the American political system. Focusing primarily on the United States Supreme Court, with additional discussion of the lower federal courts, we will look at the political and legal processes that have shaped constitutional development from the founding to the present. The course focuses on issues related to separation-of-powers and federalism, two important features of the American political system, with the goal of understanding why and how the United States federal courts participate in the political process. We will look at Supreme Court decisions on judicial power, economic regulation, legislative powers, and executive powers. We will consider the political context in which the Supreme Court works and the effect of Supreme Court power on democratic processes and electoral accountability. The course also examines court procedures, the development of the federal courts, and theories of constitutional interpretation.
Student learning goals
Students will develop an understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
Students will develop the capacity to read and critique Supreme Court opinions.
Students will gain a better understanding of the role of the federal judiciary in American politics.
General method of instruction
Lecture, small-group discussion, small-group activities.
No prior knowledge of the Supreme Court is necessary.
Class assignments and grading
Class participation, two papers, a midterm and a final exam.